SALE attack coach Paul Deacon hailed the influence of AJ MacGinty after the Sharks playmaker's man-of-the-match display in Saturday's 24-0 European Challenge Cup win against Cardiff Blues.

The American international fly-half kicked four penalties and a conversion and produced a masterclass in game management at a snow-bound AJ Bell Stadium.

It was just the latest in a series of excellent performances by the 27-year-old whose value to the Sharks' cause was again evident.

And Deacon said it merely confirmed what everyone at Sale's Carrington training HQ sees day in, day out on the training paddock.

"I think AJ gave what he gives every week. He's a consistent player, a very solid number 10, and I think he's underrated in my opinion," Deacon told the club's website.

"He does a lot of good stuff for the team. He distributes well, controls games well, tackles as well as any player on the field and kicks his goals.

"I think AJ has been doing that consistently well all season and I think massive credit should go to him and Will Cliff for the way they controlled the game.

"Cliffy's box-kicks were really clever and AJ's game-management decisions and kicking were excellent."

Saturday's win put the Sharks back in the mix in terms of finishing as group winners and sets up a huge return clash with the Blues in Cardiff on Sunday.

Though still in third place in Pool Two, Sale are now only two points behind leaders Cardiff and a point off second-placed Toulouse at the halfway stage.

And with Sale having recorded five wins out of their last six games, the attack coach said there was a sense of confidence and momentum at the club.

"If we had lost on Saturday that would probably have been it for us in terms of the group. Now, though, we are right back in it," he added.

"We've got a chance and we play Cardiff again next week and I'm 100 per cent sure it will be a different game next week on their artificial pitch.

"They are a different team down there but we like playing on those pitches as well so we'll have to be ready for that.

"The good thing is that I think we are building as a group the longer the season goes on."