SALE director of rugby Alex Sanderson was pleased with his side’s second-half improvement in their 35-27 win against Newcastle.

The Sharks maintained their faint play-off hopes on Friday night after second-half scores from Ben Curry, Simon Hammersley and Ewan Ashman turned the game around.

But the hosts were flat for large parts of the first half, with the Falcons scoring an early try through George McGuigan and leading 15-14 at the break, with only two scores from Akker van der Merwe keeping the Sharks close.

And Sanderson, whose side face Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup quarter-finals this weekend, admitted his team were not at full throttle before the interval.

“We did well tonight,” he said. “I didn’t think we were necessarily trying to preserve ourselves in any way during the first half, but we weren’t quite there I suppose.

“We’ve talked about the Racing game during the week of course, and subconsciously it was there in the back of our minds I thought in the first half.

“You can’t really help that. We improved in the second half, though.

“We proved that we can move up the levels, and we need to maintain those levels for next weekend. We also scored some decent tries on the night too, which was pleasing.”

The Sharks were able to eventually turn the screw in the second half and ensure they moved into the Champions Cup qualification places.

Ashman crossed the whitewash 13 minutes from the end to secure a bonus point and give his side some breathing space for the first time.

Matias Orlando’s close-range score in the dying seconds ensured the visiting Falcons headed home with a try-scoring bonus point themselves.

Sale boss Sanderson now wants his team to maintain their momentum going into the clash with Racing.

He added: “We’ll need all the ability and the energy we showed tonight when we head to France.

“We had a few lads out being tactically rested here tonight, so we’ll be at pretty much full strength.

“Certainly no one in our camp thinks we can’t win over there next week.”