Sale Sharks captain James Mitchell could not hide his disappointment that his side were edged out in the final of the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Plate, after they went down 26-19 to Exeter Chiefs.
The 20-year-old’s team qualified for the Singha 7s finals at Twickenham Stoop after coming second behind Newcastle Falcons at the northern leg last week, but were comfortably defeated 26-10 by eventual champions Newport Gwent Dragons in the first clash of the evening.
That placed the Sharks in the Plate competition, and an impressive 45-24 victory over host-side Harlequins in their semi-final saw them march into the final.
But a dominant first-half performance saw Exeter surge clear, and ensured Sale would leave the Stoop empty-handed.
‘That’s not at all the result we were after,” said Mitchell. “To get to the Singha 7s Plate final is obviously good for us boys, but we’re very disappointed about the performance.
“We’re gutted as we didn’t get out of the blocks at all, didn’t have much of the ball and stubbled to play with it when we did.
“I think we were a bit fatigued in that final too, and while we train to make sure we can still play when we’re tired when that first try went over a few heads went down.
“I could have done more maybe to get the young guys more up for it, but coming back when we were all very tired was really difficult.
“It was our first chance to win some silverware, and it went amiss for us, but that said all the boys have learned a lot and stepped up.
“Guys like Conor Dever and Matt Postlethwaite really showed they have a lot of talent, and it bodes very well indeed for the academy season.”
It was Pete Laverick who put the Sharks on the back foot in the Plate final, and despite Nev Edwards pulling one back for Sale, it was in truth all Exeter.
Sam Simmonds was on hand first after Exeter stole a line-out in their own half and released the skipper down the right. Stuart Townsend then extended the lead for the Chiefs, before Alex Ducker’s try made the result certain.
But having led the side admirably and scored an impressive five tries on the night at the Stoop, Mitchell is hoping he has done enough to shake up the pecking order at Sale ahead of their 15s campaign.
He said: “This opportunity was absolutely massive for me and I really do hope I’ve put my hand up.
“The tournament was obviously all live on BT Sport, and I wanted to show that I can be competing with Chris Cusiter and Peter Stinger this season for the 15s side.
“That’s what I want to be doing this year and pushing into their positions. Maybe I can break into the first team, who knows, but to get the chance to go out there and show was I can do was amazing.
“A lot of the other boys on our team did that well and took their chance with both hands.
“Picking the lads up now will be hard, but everything we say from here has to be positive. We’re all gutted and we all know the performance wasn’t there, but there was a lot of good things to take away and focus on.”
Cup Quarter-Final: Newport Gwent Dragons 26 Sale Sharks 10
Cup Quarter-Final: Gloucester Rugby 31 Harlequins 26
Cup Quarter-Final: Wasps 33 Exeter Chiefs 5
Cup Quarter-Final: Newcastle Falcons 26 Scarlets 31
Plate Semi-Final: Sale Sharks 45 Harlequins 24
Cup Semi-Final: Newport Gwent Dragons 19 Gloucester Rugby 14
Plate Semi-Final: Exeter Chiefs 14 Newcastle Falcons 12
Cup Semi-Final: Scarlets 12 Wasps 33
Plate Final: Sale Sharks 19 Chiefs 26
Cup Final: Newport Gwent Dragons 17 Wasps 12