Sale Sharks' final Premiership match against Worcester Warriors has been cancelled after additional Covid-19 cases were detected within the club, ending the Sharks' hopes of reaching the play-offs in the process
A cluster of positive coronavirus tests at Sale prompted the Premiership to postpone the match to Wednesday from Sunday, with the Sharks saying they would forfeit the game if they received any more positive results.
The Premiership confirmed that an additional six players and two staff from the Sharks had tested positive, taking the total number of positive cases to 27 in the last seven days.
The Sharks, who were fifth in the standings, three points behind Bath, needed a win to seal a play-off spot but the forfeit means Worcester have been handed a 20-0 victory, ensuring Bath will take that play-off spot.
"I have spoken to Sale Sharks this morning and neither the club or Premiership Rugby will take risks with people's health," Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Darren Childs said.
Together we won't compromise our commitment that matches will only happen if it is safe to do so, therefore the game is off. Today's decision demonstrates that commitment.
"We know everyone at Sale Sharks will be devastated, and we share their disappointment that their season ends this way... People fight hard for points in and for a place in the semi-final but everyone agrees this has to take second place to people's health and well-being."
Sharks have revealed their disappointment with how things have unravelled.
"This is devastating for Sale Sharks, the players and staff with Covid-19 denying the club the chance to challenge for the Premiership title at the final hurdle. Sale Sharks and all involved with the club are determined to come back stronger than ever in time for next season," a statement read.
"The owners are very proud of, and grateful to, the players and staff for the effort that has been demonstrated throughout the protracted season and particularly over this past week.
"Sale Sharks would like to thank all its supporters for wishing the club’s players and staff a speedy recovery during these difficult circumstances. They would like to reassure those well-wishers that no-one who has been infected has any serious health concerns at present. The club will continue to ensure that everybody is closely monitored and supported over the coming weeks."