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The European Rugby Champions Cup quarter-finals may be out of reach for Sale Sharks and Scarlets, but both sides are determined to finish on a high.
Scarlets’ hopes were dashed in cruel fashion when Chris Ashton salvaged a 22-22 draw for Saracens on Sunday. But wins over three-time European champions RC Toulon and Sale at home have given the Scarlets supporters reason to be hopeful for the future.
Saracens and Toulon will shootout for top spot in Pool 3 at Allianz Park, while Sale and Scarlets battle for pride.
Ken Owens could miss the game after limping off with a tight calf, but his Wales colleague Gareth Davies could be back in the no.9 shirt after limping off with a shin problem. Scarlets earned a 28-11 triumph over Steve Diamond’s men to get their campaign off to a winning start in Round 1, and head coach Wayne Pivac is determined to finish with a flourish.
He said: “We have to recover well from this defeat and we’ll see how the squad is looking. We have Sale up next and whatever shape we’re in, we will be going up their to win the game. We want to keep building, we’ve come a long way since the start of the season and we don’t want to sit back now and think we’re the bees-knees.
“That game against Saracens was nip and tuck, we can’t fault the players effort because they gave 100 percent for the cause.”
Sale are yet to earn a Champions Cup victory this season, but led Toulon at the Stade Mayol at half-time last time out. The Sharks have never beaten the Welsh side, but Mark Jennings is hoping to change that on Saturday.
He said: “There are many positives to take from the game, we want to get the 'W' over the Scarlets. We need to get the win and build our performances over the next few weeks in Anglo-Welsh Cup, then onto Newcastle Falcons in the Aviva Premiership at home, which is a big game for us.
“We've come a long way over the last few weeks, the Toulon game doesn't reflect a side that have lost ten games on the bounce. We showed our commitment and our stature of a team that we kept them out for that long.”
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Sale Sharks earned their first victory of the seasoned ended a 10-match losing run with a 25-23 triumph over Scarlets.
Both sides were out of the Pool 3 race heading into Round 6, but the Sharks looked determined to get a victory in this season's competition. Tries from Paulo Odogwu and Will Addison put Sale in a commanding position before DTH van der Merwe’s score on the stroke of half-time.
A penalty try brought the Scarlets closer, before Jones landed a penalty to put the Welsh region ahead. But a late AJ MacGinty penalty earned the victory.
Scarlets were caught cold in Salford as the Sharks raced out of the blocks in search of a first Champions Cup triumph. Some heavy pressure resulted in a penalty, which AJ MacGinty converted for a 3-0 lead.
Sale’s continued their early dominance and were rewarded with a try moments later. The Sharks backline fixed the Welsh defence and spread the ball wide to Odogwu, who dived in acrobatically at the corner. MacGinty missed the conversion but hit another penalty to make it 11-0 after 20 minutes.
And it was to get even better for the crowd at the AJ Bell Stadium. Addison received the ball in midfield and sliced through the defence before he accelerated away to score from 50 metres out. Dan Jones finally got the Scarlets on the scoreboard with a penalty, before DTH van der Merwe gave the West Walians a lifeline. The ball was worked wide for the Canadian to score, and Jones converted to make it 16-10 at half-time.
MacGinty and Jones traded penalties after the interval, but the US Eagle landed another to put the hosts 22-13 ahead. But the Scarlets bit-back to have Sale fans sweating after 65 minutes. Magnus Lund entered a driving maul from the side after a close-range lineout, and referee Pascal Gauzere awarded a penalty try and sent Lund to the sin-bin. Jones kicked the conversion to pull Wayne Pivac’s men back to within two points.
They hit the front for the first time as Jones landed his fifth penalty from five attempts to give the Scarlets a 23-22 advantage. But MacGinty stepped up again to land one of his own to seal Sale’s first victory in Europe this season.