Steve Diamond praised his Sale side for rectifying recent mistakes after they crushed play-off rivals Bristol 40-7 to move back into the Gallagher Premiership’s top two.

The Sharks were beaten by league leaders Exeter last week, but they saw off Wasps on Tuesday and on Saturday thumped a much-changed Bristol, with Luke James running in two of their six tries.

Sale are on course for a first semi-final appearance since they lifted the trophy in 2006 and Diamond said he got the reaction he was looking for after delivering some stern words last week.

“We have learnt lessons from recent games,” he said.

“We gave away 40 penalties in two games and now, when we are looking at our last results with a full-strength side, it is no surprise that we are winning games, having only given away 17 penalties away.

“That has made a massive difference. Exeter beat us fair and square in the end and you have to take that. That is rugby and we know that.

“We spoke about the situation during the week and said that, if we carry on playing like this, then we are out of the running for the title.

“I have been pleased with our reaction, and we knew we would still have to do a job today against a good side that Pat (Lam) has put together. They showed against Exeter that they can come back in games and we had to work hard against them.

“We are not flattering ourselves from this result, we know what we need to do, both myself and the players, in the games to come.”

Sale were excellent from the off against Bristol, with Luke James, Denny Solomona and Faf De Klerk all scoring converted tries within the first 20 minutes.

Sam James got a fourth before the break, while Marland Yarde’s score and a second for Luke James put them even further out of sight in the second half Alapati Leiua’s try Bristol’s only positive.

“Of course this is a disappointing result, but we are a young team and we will learn from this,” Bristol head coach Pat Lam said.

”Games like this give the player a chance to learn to continue in their development, this is a real positive as it gives us a chance to see how the players are learning.

“The other big positive for us is the way the players reacted today. We know that Sale are a really good side, and a really direct side. But we have got young players smashing into some big guys and that is a positive.

“But as part of the learning process, the guys have seen that the next level up for them is all in the details of their performances.”