London Irish director of rugby Nick Kennedy lamented his side’s lack of creativity as they succumbed to a 13-9 defeat at home to Sale Sharks.
Josh Strauss’ first-half try and eight points from the boot of Faf de Klerk was enough to down the Exiles, who remain without a victory since the opening day of the Aviva Premiership season and are rooted to the foot of the table.
Irish had won four on the bounce in cup competitions heading into their Premiership return on Saturday and Kennedy said he could see signs of those performances against Sale, albeit without the killer instinct.
“It’s disappointing because I thought there was some brilliant bits of play from us,” he said. “Our defence was outstanding because we were under the pump for the majority of the first half.
“They were on our line for most of it and apart from that one try that slipped through, I thought we held together really well.
“I thought we had a lot of legs left near the end and we were on the up but we just weren’t quick enough to move them and show our tenacity that I know we have.
“The last few minutes, we turned the ball over nicely and forced a few errors.
“That was the thinking behind taking the penalty – get within one try and then throw everything at them. We definitely could have scored and won the game.”
Tommy Bell kicked three penalties for the home side with De Klerk converting two for Sale in a game that saw few try-scoring opportunities.
Those that the Sharks created were smartly snuffed out by Irish until Strauss got the crucial score in the 29th minute – De Klerk converting – to give Sale a 10-0 lead that Bell’s boot could not claw back.
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond praised the home defence and talked up his own side’s chances of securing European Champions Cup rugby next season.
“Credit to them,” he said. “They defended like dogs on their own line many times. We got on their line more often than not but couldn’t put it down.
“We were out of sync, I thought, and we didn’t play particularly well with the ball and I thought on days like today we could have put four or five tries against them.
“I think we can make the top six. But our first job this year was not to get relegated and top six is the next job.”