SALE’S director of rugby Steve Diamond felt his side did not hit the heights of recent weeks in their defeat at Saracens.

The Sharks went down 36-22 at Allianz Park as they missed the chance to gain ground in the top-four race.

They remained third however as other results went their way, the visitors crossing the line through Byron McGuigan, Dan Du Preez and Rob Du Preez.

But tries by Rhys Carre, Rotimi Segun, Nick Isiekwe and Richard Barrington helped Mark McCall's men overcome their off-the-field issues to make it 13 consecutive home wins against the Sharks.

Diamond refused to blame the poor weather conditions for the defeat and felt his side were below par.

He said: "We come from Manchester, it pours it down every day. We trained with the wind all week, but it was just a bit more experience in their team to put us to the sword in that first half.

"Fair play to Saracens, their strength in depth runs deep.

“Players come in and stay in structure and they did that really well.

"I think we've been playing well over the past six weeks, we just didn't play (today), we didn't get past one phase. I'm a little bit disappointed with that."

Within 60 seconds of the start the Sharks lost a lineout and Carre gathered the loose ball and carried it over for Sarries.

Winds from Storm Dennis could have suggested a tough fixture for kickers, but Rob Du Preez scored a penalty to put the Sharks on the scoreboard after Sarries failed to roll.

Then the hosts capitalised on three penalties awarded to them after a host of errors from the Sharks. Two were converted by Manu Vunipola and one by Alex Lozowski.

Sale got a try back right on half-time. Springbok Dan Du Preez broke through the hosts' back line, instigating some beautiful passes which ended with the ball in the hands of McGuigan who took it over.

Rob Du Preez's conversion reduced Sale's deficit to just four points at the break.

The London side were also the first to add to their tally in the second half, with Segun's try right in the far corner after a period of sustained attacking pressure from Sarries.

After Vunipola's two-pointer, referee Wayne Barnes awarded Saracens a penalty for dissent from McGuigan. This was kicked from the halfway line for another three points by Vunipola, which put Saracens into a commanding 24-10 lead.

Lock Isiekwe scored Saracens' next try after 55 minutes. Initially not given, Barnes changed his call after reviewing it on the big screen. Vunipola hit his conversion chance against the swaying posts.

After dogged pressure on the line, the hosts finally got it over through substitute Barrington after playing advantage following a penalty call. Vunipola's fifth successful kick gave Sarries a 26-point cushion going into the last 11 minutes.

Dan Du Preez drove over the line with nine minutes to go and Rob Du Preez got another with a minute left on the clock, but it was not enough to change the outcome.