TOP BAR - Fixtures

Braid buoyed by Sale Sharks’ recent displays

A narrow defeat to Leicester Tigers may have been tough to take last weekend but skipper Dan Braid insists it is further proof that Sale Sharks can go toe-to-toe with the Aviva Premiership Rugby big guns.

Despite opening up a healthy lead shortly after the break, Sale were hit by a second-half fightback and a last-gasp converted try – eventually beaten 32-30.

However, Steve Diamond’s side head into the New Year seventh in the league table, just four points behind third-placed Saracens.

And former All Blacks flanker Braid, whose return to fitness in October has coincided with the club’s impressive run of form, is keen to see Sale kick on in 2015.

“It's the half-way stage of the season and I think we are in good shape despite Saturday's big disappointment,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “We've got 30 points on the board and we're in a good place.

“We've played a couple of the top teams away from home so it's all up to us to keep on playing good rugby, to learn the lessons from each game and really look to kick on.

“I think the key lesson is about how to finish off games. We've been up so many times this year and then just fallen away at the back end and that happened again on Saturday.

“It's definitely a mental factor for us about when the pressure comes on, still believing in what your game is about.

“We played so well and dominated the first half and attacked so well but then we just lost our composure in the second half.

“It's a big lesson for us. We spoke about it at half-time, we were in a top match against a top team who would look to fight back and we needed to keep the pressure on them.

“A lot of credit has to go to them for the way they closed the game out but it makes it very frustrating that we let ourselves down when we had the game in our grasp.”

Next up Sale face a daunting trip to Wasps’ Ricoh Arena before hosting reigning champions Northampton Saints – but Braid is up for the challenge.

“There is a lot of positivity in the club,” he added. “We are playing very good rugby and I think we have a good mix between our set-piece and drive and our backs who are really clicking, with young guys like Mike Haley and Will Addison both being outstanding.

“So there are a lot of parts of our game which are coming right. For us now, it's just about taking that next step to beat the top Premiership sides. Week in, week out those sides play well.

“We've learnt a lot of lessons from the European games at home where we have been so close to winning and Saturday was another one.

“But as long as we learn the lessons I am confident we can keep progressing.”

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