Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond remained satisfied with his team despite losing 27-6 to Montpellier in their penultimate Heineken Cup fixture.
With their quarter-final hopes sunk in December by back-to-back defeats by
Toulon, Diamond opted for several fringe players and were largely overwhelmed by their star-studded French opposition.
The Sharks pack was under pressure throughout, but there was plenty to cheer about after an encouraging debut by 20-year-old number eight Josh Beaumont, watched by father and former England skipper Bill, and teenage centre Mark Jennings.
"I thought after the first scrum of the game we were in for a really hard night but they showed a lot of character," Diamond said. "There were a lot of positives moving forward into the league. It could have been a lot worse.
"We have to look at what's important to us and the Aviva Premiership is our lifeblood and bread and butter. We've got a lot out of today. The young centre Mark Jennings and Josh Beaumont did well.
"A lot of people put their hands up and showed what character we've got in the team. A guy who takes a lot of the press generally who played well tonight was Danny Cipriani.
"If he sticks to his kicking game for us he will be great. He keeps the forwards going. We were in the game at half-time because of Danny's kicking.
"We played well in parts but overall their dominance showed and they deserved
Montpellier, flying high in the French League, made it four successive wins to keep alive their qualification hopes, much to the delight of coach Fabien Galthie.
A penalty try two minutes from the end, to add to earlier touchdowns from
Yohann Artru, man of the match Johnnie Beattie and Pierre Berard, enabled the visitors to clinch a crucial bonus point which takes them level with Toulon, who play Cardiff on Saturday.
Galthie said: "Victory and the bonus point is a good result for us. We now
need to beat Toulon, simple as that. We are going to try."
The former France scrum-half was delighted with the performance of Scotland number eight Beattie, who was at the heart of a dominant pack display.
"We are very happy for him," he added. "He is one of the best players in the