Sale Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson regrets that his side were far from their best in their 27-5 Champions Cup defeat to Toulouse.

Already facing a tall order against the five-time champions, Sharks’ task was made a near-impossible one when Cobus Wiese was dismissed for a red card after 18 minutes, with props Nick Schonert and Simon McIntyre having already departed due to a head clash.

Sharks were ahead 5-0 at the time of Wiese’s indiscretion, and failed to score again, though they more than held their own defensively, frustrating Toulouse until the final quarter when the man advantage paid dividends for the French side.

Sanderson said: “We had talked beforehand about how we would need to be at our very best this weekend if we were to even have a chance of winning this game.

“In the end, though, we were nowhere near our best.

“Of course, you can throw in the curve-balls that came with losing two props so early in the game and then the sending-off not long after, but the players left on the field still have to do the basics right.

“We didn’t deserve anything today, and Toulouse have what it takes to go on and win games like this.

“They’ve proved time and again that they’ve got the strength and the quality to be successful in the big games like this.

“We failed to manage the game very well at crucial stages, we didn’t keep the ball well enough and the line-outs weren’t great.

“We’ve been the victims of our own demise to a large degree.

“Defensively we were more on it, and we gave it everything in that respect, but it was with the ball that also let us down on what has turned into a disappointing day.”

Forward Wiese was given his marching orders for a dangerous clear-out at a ruck, a decision which left Sanderson with “no qualms at all.”

Sharks must now win their final Pool B fixture - a visit to Ulster next weekend - if they are to stand any chance of progressing to the last 16.

But, despite the difficult defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium, Sanderson remains upbeat about his side’s chances of progression.

“It’s very clear what we’ve got to do to progress in the competition now,” he said.

“We’ve got to go to Ulster next weekend now and get a result.

“We know we’re going to have to scrap, battle and fight from start to finish if we are to get a result, and if we can do that we’ll see what happens.

“Today aside, we’ve put some really decent performances in so far this season, but it just didn’t happen for us today.”