World Cup stars bring Sale’s bite

SALE SHARKS 25 LA ROCHELLE 15

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By IAN LAYBOURN

STEVE Di­a­mond was de­lighted with the im­pact of World Cup fi­nal­ists Faf De Klerk and Tom Curry but dis­ap­pointed at miss­ing out on a bonus point in Sale’s Heineken Cham­pi­ons Cup win over La Rochelle.

For­mer Eng­land winger Chris Ash­ton scored a com­pe­ti­tion record-ex­tend­ing 40th try but the Sharks made hard work of se­cur­ing their first group win against in­dis­ci­plined op­po­nents who had one man sent off and two oth­ers sin-binned.

France hooker Pierre Bour­garit was handed a red card three min­utes be­fore half-time for al­legedly eye goug­ing Curry, while lock Remi Ler­oux and prop Dany Priso saw yel­low for tech­ni­cal in­fringe­ments.

Curry, who was named man of the match, said he did not feel any pres­sure on his eye.

“I didn’t even know what was hap­pen­ing,” he said. “I felt a hand on my face but I’ll leave it to the of­fi­cials.”

Cen­tre Ro­han Janse van Rens­burg scored the open­ing try for the Sharks, who were also awarded a penalty try, while fly-half AJ MacGinty kicked four goals, but Di­a­mond felt they ought to have en­joyed a big­ger mar­gin of vic­tory, es­pe­cially with the re­turn of their World Cup duo.

“Faf pro­vides en­ergy in train­ing and gives us that spark with his abil­ity to run at de­fences,” Di­a­mond said. “Curry does the same, it’s great to have them back.

“I thought we could have done a bit bet­ter in some ar­eas. We were a bit anx­ious when they were down to 13 men. We went off our as­sign­ments a bit by kick­ing and chip­ping the ball. If we had kept the ball in hand, we could have stressed them.

“But it’s our first time in three years in this com­pe­ti­tion and I’ll take the win.”

Di­a­mond says Eng­land back­rower Mark Wil­son, who has joined Sale on a sea­son-long loan from rel­e­gated New­cas­tle, is ex­pected to be ready to make his de­but just af­ter Christ­mas af­ter un­der­go­ing mi­nor surgery for a knee in­jury sus­tained dur­ing the World Cup.

The Sharks boss also re­vealed the club are in talks with Fiji in­ter­na­tional lock Leone Nakarawa, who was sus­pended by French club Rac­ing 92 af­ter mak­ing a de­layed re­turn from the World Cup in Japan.

Nakarawa is seen by Di­a­mond as a pos­si­ble short-term re­place­ment for Josh Beau­mont, who is side­lined for up to five months af­ter un­der­go­ing knee surgery.

Di­a­mond said: “We are look­ing for a high-qual­ity lock.

“He’s ap­par­ently gone miss­ing but we’ve tracked him down and we’re in ne­go­ti­a­tions at the mo­ment.”

Mean­while, La Rochelle’s in­ter­est in the Cham­pi­ons Cup is ef­fec­tively over af­ter de­feats in their two open­ing games and skip­per Vic­tor Vito had no com­plaint over the dis­missal of Bour­garit.

“It’s pretty ob­vi­ous if there’s a hand to the face, whether it’s a graze or some­thing else,” he said. “We’ll have took look at that.

“They won the con­tact zone to­day with the Curry boys and they were smart as well – they got Faf back and he kicks you back in your own half.”

World Cup win­ner Faf de Klerk in ac­tion for Sale against La Rochelle

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