World Cup stars bring Sale’s bite
SALE SHARKS 25 LA ROCHELLE 15
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