Sale director of rugby, Alex Sanderson, admitted his side were still far from their best despite going top of the Premiership following Friday night’s 40-22 comeback win against bottom side Newcastle.

Arron Reed scored two of six tries for the hosts, but it was far from plain sailing for last season’s runners-up, with the winless Falcons coming within four points at one stage, thanks to a second-half fightback.

Bryan Byrne and Iwan Stephens both crossed after the break to reduce the score to 26-22 but late tries from Sam James and Tom Roebuck sealed victory and Sanderson insisted there was still plenty of room for improvement from his side.

He said: “I’m torn between an underlying sense of frustration and how the game was as tight as it was, for as long as it was.

“But as I said to the boys post-game, let’s just enjoy the win, enjoy the weekend and enjoy being top of the table.

“We’ll understand on Monday what it takes to stay there, because that’s the aspiration.

“There were elements of the game which were very good, but we were too inconsistent in terms of an 80-minute performance.

“I think the boys know that. I can see it in their eyes and that’s why I said to them after the game to just leave it for now, otherwise they will carry it all weekend and it will spoil what little rest they do have.

“It gives us something to work on come Monday as we’re nowhere near the finished product yet.

“We ground out a win that looked comfortable. It was squeaky bum time at 65 minutes, it really was, but they dug in and we found a way through by getting a bit more set-piece dominance.”

Defeat in the northern derby leaves Falcons without a win from their opening six matches but head coach Alex Codling revealed his pride at the way his inexperienced side overcame adversity to run Sale close.

Codling said: “I’ve got two overriding emotions. One is immense pride, we we’re 10-5 up after 28 minutes, then 26-10 down after 40 minutes and we were staring down the barrel at that point - but our response in the second half was incredible.

“I thought our resilience, our tenacity and our togetherness was outstanding. But for a few kicks we would have been ahead at that point around the hour mark.

“The other emotion I’m left with is just a bit of frustration at the end, because people who haven’t watched the game will see that scoreline and think we’ve been battered, but it’s been anything but.”