Daily Express

Curry’s eye-opening return for Sale


- By Neil Squires

TOM CURRY had an eventful return to domestic rugby after his World Cup heroics as he took the man-of-the-match award and had his eyes gouged in Sale’s Heineken Champions Cup win over indiscipli­ned La Rochelle yesterday.

The gouging led to the dismissal of Pierre Bourgarit in the 38th minute after the hooker intervened from behind in a squabble between Curry and Dany Priso in grisly fashion.

Sale failed to take a bonus point despite the advantage but, after losing at Glasgow in the opening round, at least they are in motion in Europe. And the win was secured without any lasting damage to Curry.

“I didn’t even know what happened,” said Curry. “I just felt a hand on my face. It’s not that big a deal. What happens, happens. I’m 21, I’m not a kid. I can handle myself. We had to turn around the performanc­e from last week. I thought we did that. There is a lot to work on but it was a strong effort.”

Curry was an all-round menace, carrying, tackling, hacking on and charging down drop-goals with abandon, but his biggest influence on the game was in being the unwitting victim of Bourgarit’s attack.

“Any time there is hand to the face, whether it is just grazing or an actual jab, you know it’s not good enough,” said La Rochelle captain Victor Vito.

Yellow cards for Remi Leroux and Priso meant that Sale played 18 minutes against 13 men, but the fact La Rochelle won these periods either side of half-time 3-0 told a story of Sale’s lack of creativity.

They started brightly, taking the lead with a seventh-minute try by centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg after a switch of play from Faf de Klerk, but with the World Cup-winning scrum-half largely out of sorts on his return the well ran dry thereafter.

A strong forward drive against the under-manned visitors yielded a penalty try but Sale had to wait until seven minutes from time for their third touchdown. It was gifted to Chris Ashton when Levani Botia dived on the ball and squeezed it into the wing’s path.

La Rochelle managed an injury-time consolatio­n try from Jeremy Sinzelle to add to Vincent Rattez’s first-half score.

Injuries forced Sale to play back-row Jean-Luc du Preez at lock and director of rugby Steve Diamond confirmed they are in talks with Leone Nakarawa, who is in dispute with his club Racing after returning late to Paris following Fiji’s World Cup campaign, to fill the hole.

“I thought there might be one or two of the locks at Saracens available but they’re not so we are looking further afield,” he said. “We’ve tracked Naka down and are in negotiatio­ns.”

Sale are also without England back-row Mark Wilson, who is facing a battle to be fit for the start of the Six Nations after knee surgery. Diamond said: “It’s an eight-weeker we think.”

SALE – Tries: Van Rensburg, Penalty, Ashton. Con: MacGinty. Pens: MacGinty (2).

LA ROCHELLE – Tries: Rattez, Sinzelle.

Con: James. Pen: James.

 ??  ?? SHARK ATTACK Sale’s Chris Ashton and, inset, Rohan Janse van Rensburg touch down for tries
SHARK ATTACK Sale’s Chris Ashton and, inset, Rohan Janse van Rensburg touch down for tries

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