DIRECTOR of rugby Steve Diamond believes there were positives to draw on from Saturday's 34-19 loss at leaders Exeter ahead of Sale Sharks' crucial final game of the season this weekend.

Despite the defeat to Rob Baxter's reigning champions, results elsewhere over the weekend mean the Sharks go into Saturday's clash with Leicester Tigers still in with a chance of sealing a top-six finish which would secure a place in next season's European Champions Cup.

There was much to admire about the Sharks' work at Sandy Park – not least a two-try showing from winger Byron McGuigan and another excellent all-round display from AJ MacGinty.

And the Sale boss said the Sharks were already eagerly looking forward to what will effectively be a winner-takes-all shoot-out with the Tigers at the AJ Bell Stadium.

"We were beaten by a better side but the final score doesn't reflect the game as we did some good things," Diamond told the club's website.

"We were competitive and I thought we deserved a bonus point at least, and probably did enough to get that but it wasn't to be.

"In the first half, Exeter's set-piece was in control and we made some crucial errors but overall it was a good performance.

"After that I'm really confident of winning our crucial game against Leicester, and Gloucester taking a good hiding has helped too.

"Saturday is a big game for all concerned but we are strong at home and looking forward to it.

"We are a good team at the beginning of a journey and are unrecognisable from the team that kicked off at the start of the season.

"We will be even stronger next season and can have a real crack."