Sale Sharks will head to Leicester Tigers next weekend with a spring in their step after one of their best performances in recent memory, says director of rugby Steve Diamond.
Sale have lost just once on home soil in Aviva Premiership Rugby in the last 12 months but visitors London Irish kept a tight leash on them in the first half.
Brian Mujati and TJ Ioane each crossed over before an Exiles penalty try sent the two sides into the break just two points apart.
However, Sam James, Nev Edwards – twice – and Sam Tuitupou added further scores in the second half as the Sharks cut loose and eventually coasted to maximum points.
“It’s up there with our best performances,” said Diamond. “I thought we handled the first half conditions really well, playing against the elements.
“I thought we were a bit unlucky to concede the penalty try but these things happen, and then we just compounded the possession that we had and the field position.
“We pulled the trigger when we needed to – I think we left two or three tries out there if I’m honest.
“We knew in the first half we had to keep ball in hand, we were fortunate to score those two tries at close quarters and have some dominance at the scrum.
“In the second half, with the wind behind us, we knew that if we had a good start – which we did – and then it’s difficult to get out.
“We’ve got to go to Leicester next week so we can’t get too cocky – I’ve told them in there to have a great night tonight and we’ll build up for Leicester, but we’ve got a great team spirit.”
London Irish had ended a run of ten straight away defeat in all competitions last weekend when they beat Agen 31-17 to qualify for the European Rugby Challenge Cup quarter-finals.
But Sale just had too much for Tom Coventry’s side and the head coach conceded some of his charges may not have benefitted from a couple of weeks off during the European break.
“A lot of the guys that played today had a couple of weeks off because of the European programme, freshening them up – and maybe we freshened them up too much, they played like they were a little bit short of a run,” he said.
“Maybe I have to take responsibility for the way that went in the second spell today, but we were conscious of how poor we were.
“I thought Sale were good in the second spell – definitely more physical than us, and it’s always going to be difficult to win games of rugby when you don’t win that physical battle.
“Every game is tough, but against Worcester Warriors next week in front of our own crowd, we’ve got to be much better than we were today.”
Sale Sharks: Haley (Arscott 52), Addison, James, Tuitupou, Edwards, Cipriani (Ford 66), Stringer (Cusiter 59), Lewis-Roberts (Harrison 50), Taylor (Briggs 66), Mujati (Cobilas 50), Evans, Ostrikov (Mills 59), Ioane, Seymour, Beaumont (Neild 66)
London Irish: Maitland, Ojo, Hearn, Williams (Fenby 47), Tikoirotuma, Geraghty (Brophy-Clews 63), McKibbin (Steele 59), Court (Harris 62), Paice (Ellis 73), Aulika (Halavatau 59), Symons, Lloyd, Treviranus (McCusker 20), Gilsenan (Sinclair 41), Narraway
Tries: Mujati, Ioane, James, Edwards 2, Tuitupou
Conversions: Cipriani 3, Ford
Referee: Greg Garner