Home truths inspired Sale to Premiership play-offs – Joe Carpenter

Sharks head to Bath after winning their last five Premiership games.

Full-back Joe Carpenter has excelled for Sale this season
Full-back Joe Carpenter has excelled for Sale this season (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Joe Carpenter has reflected on the “tough conversations” that contributed to Sale Sharks transforming their Gallagher Premiership campaign.

Sale tackle Bath in the Premiership play-offs on Saturday, just two months after lying eighth and seemingly having little chance of a top-four finish.

But the Sharks, beaten Premiership finalists last season, surged into contention through a five-game winning run that saw them beat Exeter, Harlequins, Newcastle, Leicester and Saracens.

Sale secured a play-off place after beating Saracens
Sale secured a play-off place after beating Saracens (Nigel French/PA)

A 20-10 win at Saracens on the regular season’s final day meant Sale secured third place and an appointment with a Bath team bidding to reach Twickenham for the first time since 2015.

“We had a rough patch, results not going our way and not delivering the performances we hoped for, but I think the (Six Nations) break came at a good time,” full-back Carpenter said.

“We could look internally at what was going wrong. We had a lot of hard conversations in that period, and they needed to be hard.

“Thankfully, off the the back of it we have started to deliver again and the performances are going our way again, so it was definitely those tough conversations that brought us to that place.

“We didn’t get the result against Bath (first game back after the Six Nations), and we treated each week as knockout rugby, knowing that it would all come down to the final game at Saracens.

“Thinking we could go on to push for the play-offs was something we knew we needed to do, especially off the back of getting to last year’s final.

“We didn’t want to come eighth, so the knockout rugby mentality definitely helped.”

Leeds-born Carpenter, 22, has again excelled for the Sharks this season, showcasing his elusive running and blistering pace, while also providing a strong defensive presence.

Alex Sanderson has masterminded another appearance in the play-offs for Sale
Alex Sanderson has masterminded another appearance in the play-offs for Sale (Brian Lawless/PA)

And Carpenter’s northern roots highlight how Sale have identified local talent and enabled it to flourish under rugby director Alex Sanderson.

“There is a core group of us that come from around here, and the boys that come externally have said nothing but good things about the culture that we drive at the club,” he added.

“We speak about wearing the jersey as a privilege, and the pressure that comes with it. Ultimately, we love our job, we love playing rugby, but we love what we get from the fans off the back of it.

“The numbers at the AJ Bell (stadium) are going up, we are getting more and more fans coming down and watching us.

“And that is massive for us because we want that stadium full when we play, and it has been a lot more recently than the past few years. It is definitely going in the right direction.”

Sale’s solitary Premiership title success came in 2006 when players like Jason Robinson, Mark Cueto, Charlie Hodgson and Sebastien Chabal were dominant figures.

But after reaching last season’s final, Sale are now 80 minutes away from potentially securing a return visit, although Finn Russell-inspired Bath represent an enormous challenge.

“When you are losing six, seven and eight on the bounce, it is easy to fall into that trap of letting games slip,” Carpenter said.

“But credit to the boys and coaches for not giving in and really pushing, because 24 points out of 25 in those last five games is exceptional.”