Rude awakening for Mitchell

Sat, 01 Dec 2012 10:12
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Former All Black coach John Mitchell saw the first match in charge of Sale Sharks end in defeat.

Former All Black coach John Mitchell saw the first match of his second spell in charge of Sale end in defeat as the rock-bottom English Premiership side were beaten 27-16 by Northampton on Friday.

The 48-year-old New Zealander, who served as player-coach with Sale in the 1990s, took charge of first team affairs earlier this week - after his acrimonious break-up with the Golden Lions of South Africa - but he was unable to conjure up a victory expected of the man hailed by CEO Steve Diamond as the club's new saviour.

Northampton, who are now second in the table, had the game wrapped up before half-time, scoring three tries through Jamie Elliott, Soane Tonga'uiha and Tom May as they took a 27-3 lead.

Sale's only score before the break came through a Nick Macleod penalty and, although they hit back through Rob Miller and Tommy Taylor tries in the second half, the Saints held out for a convincing victory.

Mitchell bemoaned his side's first-half showing and believes they need to move on quickly if they are to avoid relegation this season.

Despite a much-improved second half showing from the hosts which saw them claw back 13 unanswered points, they couldn't claim a losing bonus point.

And Mitchell, who took over the role as Director of Rugby in the week, was pleased with the second 40 minutes, but believes his side must improve quickly.

"I thought the character the group showed in the second half was a good sign but clearly Northampton had a great platform," he said.

"They drove extremely well from the line-out which I think was the determining factor in the result and our backs only had crumbs to live off in that first half.

"Their pressure as a forward pack certainly took its toll in that first half. We have got a long way to go, no-one said it was going to be easy.

"Clearly we were outplayed as a forward pack in that first 40 minutes - they drove extremely well and they managed to get out of their drive quite well too.

"We coughed up a couple where they got turnovers from too and at this level of rugby you can't let off on the pressure.

"I think at times the lads got a little bit frustrated as a result of not getting field position."

In a dominant first half showing, fly-half Ryan Lamb kicked 12 points with the boot to back up the three tries in the first 40 minutes.

And despite coming out of the traps brightly at the start of the second period, Rob Miller going over three minutes after the restart, the Sharks left themselves too much to do.

A late Tommy Taylor try sparked hopes they could sneak a losing bonus point at the death, but Jim Mallinder's men held firm to leave a foggy Salford City Stadium with four valuable points.

And Saints Director of Rugby Mallinder was delighted with his side's showing in the opening half, but believes they must begin to perform for the full 80 minutes.

"I thought we played really well in the first half - we controlled the game, we did everything we had talked about," said the former Sharks head coach.

"At half-time we said to keep doing the same things but unfortunately we didn't and the second half left a lot to be desired.

"I think Sale picked it up a little in the second half but I think we were guilty of losing the ball too much - we forced a couple of balls, we missed some tackles and we stopped playing.

"We should have kept playing. I don't think our outside backs touched the ball in the second half - we've got some good exciting backs and we need to use them.

"As a coach you want to play for 80 minutes but it's something you very rarely do, it's something we have to keep striving for."

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