I wrote last week that a loss away to Wasps at the Ricoh Arena should not necessarily ring any alarm bells. After all, as the two scorelines listed above can attest, Coventry has hardly been the Sharks' happiest hunting ground in recent years.
And on Sunday Sale once again returned back up the M6 empty-handed having been on the wrong side of a decisive loss despite two opportunistic touchdowns from lock Bryn Evans and a well-worked move that sent Mike Haley under the posts late on (plus an early AJ MacGinty penalty).
But I stick by my assertion of last week; this is not a loss that should prove too disheartening. Wasps are clearly one of the two best sides in the Premiership (as indicated by their current position in the table) and have assembled a squad capable of comfortably challenging for both domestic and European honours.
To lose is disappointing, of course, as is seeing Sale come away with exactly zero points despite a valiant second-half fightback, but although frustrating Sunday will not decide Sale's season. Instead, it will be games like this Friday's against Exeter which will hold more significant influence on whether Sale's 2016-17 season is ultimately a success (read: another top-six finish) or denoted as a 'rebuilding' year.
There are two major takeaways from Sunday's game however:
To start on a positive note, it appears that both Curry brothers are legitimate Premiership-calibre players even at 18 years old. Ben made his first Premiership start against Wasps and proved not only competent but a noticeably disruptive force throughout, then on 56 minutes he was joined by brother Tom who evinced his own top-level capabilities. It's still only November, but if nothing else comes from this season, the Currys' combined meteoric rise (along with that of Paolo Odogwu) offer significant hope that Sale have unearthed a trio of players who have the potential to become elite-level difference-makers (and internationals) within a remarkably short time span.
Conversely however, it is becoming increasingly clear that change may soon be needed at the scrum-half position. No secret has been made of the necessity of substantial investment into the current Sale squad to allow it to compete with, well, the likes of Wasps in the near-future, and although rumours have so far coalesced around a certain Bath fly-half and a certain Castleford winger, one opines that scrum-half might be the area that requires the most significant immediate investment.
Rotating Peter Stringer, 38, and Mike Phillips, 34, is clearly only feasible as a short-term strategy and with only James Mitchell, 21, behind them in the pecking order, it is at this position that Sale are in most desperate need of a truly game-changing player. That is not to say neither Phillips or Stringer are Premiership-standard players - far from it - but both were run ragged by Wasps' duo of Joe Simpson and Dan Robson on Sunday and with continuing uncertainty as to exactly who is the optimum playmaker in the Sale backline (either AJ MacGinty or Sam James or maybe even Will Addison), adding, say, a Danny Care type would give Sale another attacking weapon to compete in the type of free-flowing, open matches which have historically been Sale's undoing in recent years, especially away at home.
With the loss, Sale drop down to ninth in the Premiership table and are now winless in their last three fixtures. After two understandable losses back-to-back to the two best sides in England, their opposition's lofty status is now longer applicable as an excuse should Sale lose to the Chiefs at home on Friday. Exeter sit fifth in the table and have emerged - somewhat surprisingly - as one of Sale's main competitors for the top-six this season, it's a game the Sharks need to win.
Finally, congratulations to Josh Beaumont and Mike Haley who have once again been included in England's wider training squad for this weekend's fixture against Australia. Whilst their inclusion once again reaffirms their proximity to England starting duty, it is disappointing that neither have yet been afforded the opportunity to win their first international caps despite the fixture against Fiji serving as the perfect time for Eddie Jones to grant their respective test debuts.
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