Sale Sharks boss Alex Sanderson hailed his players’ resolve after they booked a home tie in the Premiership play-offs.

Sale’s 25-22 victory over Gloucester at Kingsholm confirmed a top-two finish and a likely appointment with Leicester on May 13.

“We had to dig deep to get the result,” Sale rugby director Sanderson said.

“It’s when you are on the back-foot, those chinks can become chasms but not with this group. They were just galvanised and found a way.

“You see the bones of a team when they are on the back-foot and we were for large parts today. It was a true squad performance.

“It is important to keep form and fitness is important as well. It’s about keeping on that roll, keep improving and move into the semi-finals with some confidence.

“On a fast track when we went down to 14 men for so long, you need your bench to come on and perform, and there were some outstanding performances.”

Sanderson’s team are chasing a second Premiership title 17 years after they were crowned English champions.

Gloucester made them fight every inch of the way, but Sale even overcame yellow cards for England internationals Tom Curry and Manu Tuilagi as they displayed admirable spirit.

George Ford’s 64th-minute penalty repelled Gloucester’s resistance before Sam James’ breakaway effort during the closing stages saw victory confirmed.

Lock Jean-Luc du Preez, number eight Jono Ross and substitute James scored tries for Sale, with Ford adding two penalties and two conversions, while Gloucester delivered touchdowns from captain Lewis Ludlow, plus wings Louis Rees-Zammit and Jonny May.

Sanderson added: “Look at the stats. It has been a long time (in terms of a home play-off), but it is just one step closer.

“I said two years ago (Sale lost to Exeter in the play-offs) we were patting ourselves on the back at this point thinking fairy-tales come true. They don’t. This just gives us a better chance of making good of all the work we’ve put in.”

Gloucester face a west country derby against Bristol in their final Premiership game on May 6, and the outcome could be crucial in terms of Heineken Champions Cup qualification for next season.

Gloucester head coach George Skivington said: “I thought the boys played some really good rugby against a very physical Sale team.

“We had plenty of opportunities but it has been the story of the last couple of months and we have not finished them all off.

“I thought our defence was heroic today against a huge team that prides itself on physicality.”