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Aviva Premiership Rugby European round-up: Diamond upbeat despite Toulon defeat

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond insisted he did not regret his side taking an all-or-nothing approach against Toulon in Friday evening’s European Rugby Champions Cup defeat.

Diamond’s side were 15-0 down inside the opening quarter of an hour after Charles Ollivon and Leigh Halfpenny both crossed with Magnus Lund seeing yellow.

But Paolo Odogwu pulled a try back on 32 minutes for the Aviva Premiership Rugby side, and three times in the second half Sale kicked to the corner to no avail, with French giants Toulon standing firm in defence.

And Diamond was adamant his team were right to take the risks rather than the points, and also singled out Sam James’ performance as the stand-in fly-half pulled the strings in midfield.

“I suppose we could have kicked the penalties in front of the posts but I thought if we got over from one of those drives, it couldn’t have been an interesting last ten minutes,” he said.

“That was our decision to go for those corners, and it was probably the right decision to go for those with the team we had out.

“It was a reasonable performance but at the end of the day, we lost and we’re not happy with that. But everyone stood up to a man.

“I thought Sam James did exceptionally well at ten, and we gave them a good run for their money.

“Sam is a good all-round footballer, he plays our shape and today, if we could have executed a bit better we found gaps in the line several times, it could have been a lot different, we just couldn’t execute.

“We’ve got to dust ourselves down now; we’ve got a big game against Bristol next week.”

On Thursday evening the Rec said goodbye to a Bath Rugby legend during a Challenge Cup victory over Bristol Rugby, but Todd Blackadder believes they have just the man to fill his boots.

Leroy Houston came off the bench in the 22-6 Challenge Cup success in his final home appearance of a second spell at the club.

But the man he replaced, Zach Mercer, was yet again one of the standouts for Bath, the standout moment of his display a scything break from deep through the heart of the Bristol midfield.

And Blackadder believes there is more to come from the youngster who impressed in a scrappy West Country derby.

He said: “For a young guy, he has just been outstanding. He’s been one of our best forwards so far this year and I think we’re managing him well.

“We’re managing his game time and when he plays at home he has certainly been performing, so with Leroy’s last game at home I think we’ve got a pretty able replacement in Zach.

“If you go back and look at the game last Saturday, we haven’t really had a day off in about ten days.

“Flying back on Sunday, training Monday and Tuesday, captain’s run Wednesday and then game Thursday, perhaps it was a good result, but not a great performance.

“We had certainly done our homework on Bristol defensively. We knew what their attack were going to bring and once again our defence stood up under pressure.”

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