Gloucester Rugby skipper Greig Laidlaw insists his side now have the necessary resolve to challenge at the top end of the table after securing their first win of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season.
Scrum-half Laidlaw took home the man of the match award as he kicked 16 points in his side’s 26-13 win over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Charlie Sharples and John Afoa got the tries for the visitors while Cameron Neild and Sam James crossed for the home side.
The Sharks have only lost twice in their last 14 home games but it was the Cherry & Whites that beat them both times.
And Laidlaw admits his side must kick on from this victory after agonising defeat at home to Leicester Tigers was followed up by a draw with Worcester Warriors in the first two rounds.
“It’s always a bit unnerving when you don’t win either of the first two but we believe in ourselves this year,” said Laidlaw.
“Two weekends on the road and we got two points last week and are absolutely delighted to win here.
“It was a bit about keeping our nerve, when you play in the Premiership you are always going to be under pressure at times in the game and we kept our cool, stayed in our defensive system and we were able to stay alive for the most part.
“We rode the storm just after half-time, managed to grab a bit of field position and pick up a few penalties.
“I think some of our attacking game in that first half was brilliant and that is something we have been working on.
“We want to go out and win games, we don’t want to play not to get beat, we are testing ourselves so there are going to be mistakes but we have to keep backing ourselves.
“We were disappointed as a playing group last season, after we cross the line it’s up to the players –there’s only so much the coaches can do.
“And as players we just feel we don’t want to finish that far down the table this season. Is it going to be tough? Yes it is. But we showed tonight that we can win tough games.”
Sale have now won one and lost two of their three games this season, a fine victory over Harlequins sandwiched between losses to Newcastle Falcons and Gloucester.
And Steve Diamond has warned his side that they must improve if they are to repeat their top-six finish of last season.
“Gloucester played very well, they scored two very good tries and they capitalised on our ill discipline,” said Diamond.
“We were a poor second so credit to Gloucester. We tried to play a bit too much rugby against a good side like Gloucester, you just can’t do that especially with a world-class goalkicker like Greig Laidlaw.
“We got into those defensive positions, we offended and he kicked the goals. It’s a hard night’s punishment but if you do that against sides like that you lose.
“We certainly have to be a lot better than that – our endeavour as a side can never be questioned but certainly we weren’t very street-wise.”
Sale Sharks: McGuigan, Addison, James (Edwards 46), Leota, Odogwu, Mugford (Stringer 57), Phillips; Lewis-Roberts (Harrison 68), Briggs, Aulika (Longbottom 55), Evans (Pearce 73), Mills (Ostrikov 59), Neild, Seymour (Lund 73), Beaumont
Not used: Bedlow
Gloucester Rugby: Marshall, Sharples, Scott, Atkinson (Twelvetrees 57), Purdy, Burns, Laidlaw; Thomas (Orr 57), Hibbard (Dawidiuk 72), Afoa (Doran-Jones 61), Savage (Evans 75), Latta, Ludlow, Kvesic (Rowan 57), Morgan
Not used: Heinz, Hook
Tries: James, Neild
Tries: Afoa, Sharples
Conversions: Laidlaw 2
Penalties: Laidlaw 4
Referee: Ian Tempest