Sale boss Steve Diamond felt there was plenty of room for improvement after his side held on to beat Northampton 32-23 in their Gallagher Premiership opener.

The Sharks ran in four tries at the AJ Bell Stadium to claim a five-point success, but they needed to overcome a nervy finish as the visitors got back within six points in the latter stages.

They are next in action when they travel to Newcastle on Friday night.

“I thought we came out of the blocks pretty well,” said director of rugby Diamond, whose side led 17-0 after 20 minutes.

“We worked on cooling their enthusiasm because everyone’s making a fresh start and they are a massive team.

"I think we did that really well and we raced into a lead, but we couldn’t build on it.

“There is plenty to work on moving forward. There is a little bit of frustration, but I’m not too harsh on them.

"It’s their first run-out and we haven’t been able to do too much contact under the Covid regulations.

“We have got to be chuffed with five points, but we have got to be better to challenge the top four.”

Akker Van Der Merwe, Dan Du Preez and Simon Hammersley touched down for the Sharks before AJ MacGinty, who finished with a personal haul of 14 points, claimed what proved to be the decisive try in the second half.

It was a satisfactory start for Sale after the frustration of last season’s controversial ending, when a coronavirus outbreak forced them to forfeit their final fixture and consequently a shot at the play-offs.

The Sharks were last week formally cleared of any wrongdoing surrounding the spread of Covid-19 at the club.

Diamond dismissed claims that his players were partying and socialising throughout Manchester after their Premiership Rugby Cup victory over Harlequins on September 21 and an investigation by the Rugby Football Union has exonerated them.

The RFU said: “No evidence has been found to show that any player or member of club staff left the Carrington training ground and went to any other venue apart from their home."

The Premiership has now announced that points will be distributed more evenly in the event of further forfeitures.

Diamond said: “I think it’ll be good. We were a victim of the system last time and we didn’t complain about it."