Spirited Sale Sharks delight Steve Diamond with win over Exeter Chiefs

Danny Cipriani makes a pass through the crowd as Sale defeat Exeter at the A J Bell Stadium. Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond was delighted with his team's resilience in the second half as they held off a superb Exeter fightback.

The Manchester outfit were 17-0 up at the interval through Johnny Leota, Nev Edwards and Mike Haley tries, but the Chiefs hit back following scores by Jack Yeandle and Dave Lewis.

However, two Danny Cipriani penalties helped Sale to secure a 23-17 victory which lifted them to within three points of a play-off place.

Diamond said: "I thought it was an equal contest, even though the scoreline didn't suggest it was. In the second half, they had 80 percent possession and we defended well.

"Exeter are a top-four side on merit, so we were delighted to get the win. But we've got to understand that we should have been 25 points up at half-time so we've got to work on converting all the opportunities.

"We're a reasonable team, we know we're good at home and it will be a daunting task to go to Worcester next week."

Despite an excellent run of form in 2016, Diamond refused to get carried away.

He continued: "We're trying to play to the plan we do in training and we'll see where we are in another three months. There's a lot of rugby to play, as Newcastle proved last night, and if we start to think we're better than we are we'll slip into that relegation fight."

Exeter boss Rob Baxter praised his players' character after they almost pulled off a superb victory.

The Chiefs second in the Aviva Premiership but increase their buffer on third-placed Leicester to seven points with the bonus point they collected in the north-west.

Baxter said: "We're disappointed to lose but at the same time you've got to give a lot of credit to Sale, who stood strong in front of a lot of concerted attacks and have worked extremely hard not to break.

"We worked extremely hard and I can't fault the lads for the energy they put out on the pitch because we've carried the ball for miles.

"Ultimately, we've come up a little bit short by being a little bit too error-strewn in the early part of the game, when we did have concerted pressure.

"Not scoring anything in that first half has cost us. We had to work extremely hard for our moments and ultimately that's why we've come up a little bit short."