Sale’s assistant coach Dorian West bemoaned his side’s lack of discipline after seeing them fail to take their chance to put pressure on Saracens at the top of the Premiership table by losing 24-22 to Exeter at Sandy Park.

Sunday’s defeat leaves Sale trailing the leaders by 11 points and realistically they now have to beat them at the AJ Bell Stadium on Sunday if they are to maintain any hope of finishing the season on top.

There was little between the teams, as the final score would suggest, but the 14 points conceded by Sale when they had two men in the sin bin proved crucial.

After yellow cards for Sam Dugdale and Bevan Rodd, the score changed from Sale winning 10-7 to being 21-10 down, and despite dominating the second half, they could not quite claw back the deficit.

Josh Hodge scored two tries for Exeter, Harry Williams the other, with Harvey Skinner converting all three and adding two penalties.

Tom Roebuck, Ewan Ashman and Dugdale scored Sale’s tries with Robert Du Preez kicking two conversions and a penalty.

West said: “Last week we played really well at Northampton but lost because of ill-discipline.

“This week we stressed discipline would be a key issue as Exeter are a territory-based side but it didn’t work out.

“We gave away unnecessary penalties, at one stage there were five in a couple of minutes, and sometimes I think it’s a question of the boys trying too hard.

“After half time we produced a massive effort to challenge them and they did well to hang on as we nearly nicked it.”

Exeter’s four points keeps them firmly in the mix for an end-of-season play-off spot but they may rue their failure to secure a bonus point after being at one stage firmly in control of the match.

Their head coach Ali Hepher said: “They picked up a couple of yellow cards as our attack created those situations and we were ruthless in taking our opportunities during that period.

“It was a crucial game to win and very important to get over the line. However, being 11 points up at half time and playing into the wind, we then allowed them to squeeze us as we needed to be smarter by managing the game better.

“We’ve been stuck on three tries on an incredible number of occasions so we need to convert that figure to five or six.

“The boys are fighting and they are desperate to win but we need to mould that desire to produce better performances as we seem to be slipping off in our intensity in the third quarter.”