McGuigan is a tri-scorer
BYRON McGuigan’s hat-trick got Sale Sharks’ European campaign off to a perfect start as they recorded an impressive 41-24 win over Perpignan in hostile conditions at Stade Aime Giral.
A raucous home crowd made for an often unpleasant atmosphere in the south of France and Perpignan hooker Manu Leiataua being shown a straight red card on 20 minutes only incited the fans further – with referee Joy Neville requiring a security escort off the pitch at the final whistle.
Sale quietened the noise in the best way possible, however, running in tries through Rob Webber, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Luke James in addition to McGuigan’s hat-trick to secure a bonus-point triumph.
Faf de Klerk – back from international duty with South Africa – was masterful at scrum-half and the Sharks will welcome Connacht to the AJ Bell Stadium next Saturday full of confidence.
After De Klerk had missed an early penalty, to the delight of the partisan crowd, McGuigan stretched over in the corner after James had been stopped just short.
De Klerk nailed the extras but Perpignan centre Pierre Lucas slipped through a gap in the visiting defence shortly after and cantered in under the posts to level proceedings at 7-7.
But the Sharks’ task became easier midway through the half as hooker Leiataua was sent off for leading with an arm to the neck of opposite number Webber in a tackle.
That sending off only incensed the crowd and their boos soon intensified as Webber dotted down off the back of a driving maul, although a pair of penalties by Jonathan Bousquet gave Perpignan the lead three minutes before the break.
However, De Klerk went long from the restart, Perpignan spilled the ball and Janse van Rensburg was on hand to scoop up the ball and run in unopposed.
Another Bousquet three-pointer on the stroke of half-time narrowed the hosts’ deficit and the winger slotted his fourth penalty early in the second half to tie things up at 19-19.
But Sale finally managed to pull away in the final quarter as a sumptuous De Klerk chip over the top was collected and touched down by James, McGuigan slid over after young fly-half Kieran Wilkinson released him out wide and the Scot completed his hat-trick when he supported James in a two-on-one situation and glided over.
Genesis Mamea Lemalu ensured Perpignan had the final word as he dotted down at the death but it was Sale’s evening as they put indifferent Premiership rugby form behind them in style.