SALE Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond backed his young charges to emerge all the stronger after Saturday's Anglo-Welsh Cup loss to Northampton.

For the second week in succession a youthful Sharks side lost out in the last minute with the Saints claiming an 80th-minute try to steal a 24-20 victory at the AJ Bell Stadium.

With Harlequins claiming a bonus-point win against Scarlets, it means Sale now cannot qualify for the semi-finals.

But Diamond still believes there were plenty of reasons for optimism looking to the bigger picture.

"We were all obviously disappointed. We tried to play and I thought young Kieran Wilkinson, Cam Redpath and Luke James all did really well so there were some positives there," he told the club's website.

"We probably should have won the game but I'm not too despondent. I thought we might have been able to keep them out at the end but we couldn't so fair play to them.

"Individually, we were alright but as a team we weren't quite at the races I don't think. Northampton were a little bit more physical than us in the first half but after those two breakaway tries I thought we had got back into the game and had done enough to win it.

"But we could tell one or two of our players had had a week off as they were a bit ring rusty but we were in the opposition 22 and turned the ball over twice and conceded two tries so we've got to be better at our basics.

"Credit where it's due as they just managed to score in the final seconds.

"They rocked up here with their full-strength side so good luck to them – we'll just get ourselves ready for London Irish in the league."