Sale cup hopes end as strong start fades

Manchester Evening News - - SPORT - By PAUL EDDISON


SALE Sharks saw their slim hopes of reach­ing the Heineken Cham­pi­ons Cup quar­ter-fi­nals ended as they slumped to a 30-23 de­feat to La Rochelle in France.

With just one win from their first four matches, Sharks’ hopes of pro­gres­sion were more math­e­mat­i­cal than re­al­is­tic, and de­spite a strong start in France, they fin­ished with 14 men, as well as some po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing in­juries.

Steve Di­a­mond had cho­sen to rest a num­ber of key men but Sale were still able to take an early 10-0 lead.

How­ever La Rochelle ended up run­ning away with it in the sec­ond half, while Sale lost AJ MacGinty and JeanLuc du Preez to in­juries, and prop Valery Moro­zov to a red card.

MacGinty kicked an early penalty to the cor­ner, and while the maul was held up, Sharks con­tin­ued to pound away through their for­wards, with Du Preez eas­ily pow­er­ing un­der the sticks.

MacGinty added the sim­ple con­ver­sion and Sale were 7-0 to the good af­ter eight min­utes. Their cause was helped when Kevin Gour­don was sent for ten min­utes in the bin for an in­ten­tional knock-on in the La Rochelle 22, with MacGinty adding three more soon af­ter.

Up a man and ten points, Sale looked to be in con­trol, but that changed in no time at all.

A loose ball in mid­field was pounced upon by Taw­era Kerr-Bar­low.

His clever kick was col­lected by Le­vani Bo­tia who was stopped just short, but when the ball was re­cy­cled, debu­tant

Te­vita Railevu took ad­van­tage of good han­dling to go over.

Three min­utes later they were in again, Kerr-Bar­low reading a wrap­around and do­ing well to hold on to Will Cliff ’s pass be­fore rac­ing home from half­way. Ihaia West’s con­ver­sion made it 12-10.

Sale re­sponded im­me­di­ately through a MacGinty penalty, be­fore he in­jured his shoul­der try­ing to tackle Bo­tia.

From the same play, Sale were pinged for a tackle off the ball, al­low­ing West to push La Rochelle back in front.

But James Wil­liams, tak­ing over kick­ing du­ties from MacGinty, en­sured Sale would go into the break 16-15 ahead thanks to a penalty on the stroke of half-time from a pow­er­ful scrum.

The home side re­claim the lead just be­fore the hour, with Kerr-Bar­low dum­my­ing his way through and feeding Geoffrey Doumay­rou to go un­der the posts.

The mo­men­tum had swung the way of La Rochelle, and Sale soon found them­selves down to 14, Chris Ash­ton yel­low-carded for tak­ing out Kerr-Bar­low af­ter he had chipped through into space. West slot­ted the penalty to make it 25-16.

Moro­zov then saw red al­most im­me­di­ately af­ter com­ing on for drop­ping his shoul­der into the head of Lopeti Ti­mani, who was sin-binned for his role in the in­ci­dent.

And af­ter Du Preez had limped off, La Rochelle earned the bonus point when Brock James put Gré­gory Alldritt over in the cor­ner, although Sale got a late con­so­la­tion through Cur­tis Lang­don.

Jean-Luc Du Preez scored an early try for Sale but later limped off in­jured

Sharks prop Valery Moro­zov was given a red card

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