SALE Sharks director of rugby, Alex Sanderson, admits it will be tough for his side to make the Premiership play-offs this season.

Sharks went down 18-12 to Sanderson’s former club Saracens last Friday night, leaving them in sixth spot - six points behind fourth-placed Exeter Chiefs.

Sanderson said: “Frustration doesn’t come into it, I’m gutted,.

“I’m gutted because the hopes of proving our worth has just become that bit harder to take hold of, in terms of controlling our own destiny.

“We’re not going to stop fighting, there’s no point throwing the towel in... but clearly we have to be better.

“For all the effort, for all the physicality, for all the territory and for all the possession we had in the first half, we needed to convert that into some points.

“Our aim remains the same, as it has been since Christmas, which is to win every game and pick up every bonus point we can.

“I’m sure it will come down to that last game which will keep the Premiership exciting and keep us very motivated.

“But we’ve just made it that bit harder for ourselves.”

Saracens opposite number, Mark McCall, praised the efforts of Ben Earl after the flanker played a key role in their triumph.

Earl inspired his side, both with and without the ball, as he touched down twice and produced a superb defensive effort to help the Londoners move closer to securing their own play-off place.

“He’s on top of all parts of his game,” McCall said.

“He’s the top tackler in the Premiership this year. The quality of his tackling has improved but he’s a devastating attacker as well.

“He’s like having an extra back on the field.

“He did a lot of important things on the field for us today and he’s done it all season.”

McCall was also pleased with the team as a whole.

He added: “Even though it wasn’t perfect rugby from us today - far from it - I thought we were on the same page.”