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Sale Sharks will be hoping to make it two wins from two in this season’s Heineken Champions Cup but face a daunting task in the form of a trip to five-time champions Stade Toulousain on Saturday.
Sale underlined their credentials in Round 1 with a commanding 39-0 victory over Ulster Rugby, but the Gallagher Premiership side will face one of the tournament’s most elite sides at Stade Ernest Wallon.
Toulouse showed they will once again be a force in this season’s competition as they battled to a commendable 18-13 triumph at Munster Rugby in the opening round.
The Pool B encounter kicks off at 13:00 (UK & Irish time) and is available to watch on France TV, beIN SPORTS, BT Sport, SuperSport and FloRugby.
We go again 👊
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 14, 2022
Sale fly-half George Ford: “You look traditionally over the years, and they’ve been at the top of the European rugby and they’ve been there for a long time. We’re coming up against teams who are at the very top of their game with top international players. As a player, that’s what you want to do – to test yourself against those people. It’s something we’ll really have a crack at.”
- Made the fewest metres in contact (20) in Round 1.
- Kicked the ball in play more times than any other side (38). Eleven of these kicks found grass and eight were retained.
- Were the only team in the opening round not to lose a single attacking ruck.
- Conceded the fewest penalties in Round 1 (five). They also finished the round with the highest ball retention rate at the ruck (98%).
- Made the most running metres (54), beat the most defenders (32), and made the most clean breaks (14) in win against Ulster.
- Robert du Preez made a round-high five break assists. No other player managed more than three.
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Sale Sharks were beaten 45-19 at a rampaging Stade Toulousain side in Round 2 of the Heineken Champions Cup on Sunday.
Antoine Dupont (2), Thibaud Flament, Cyril Baille, Lucas Tauzin and Romain Ntamack crossed for the five-time champions, who also notched through a penalty try at Stade Ernest Wallon.
Bevan Rodd, Akker van der Merwe and Jonny Hill got over in response for Sale, but they were hampered by three yellow cards over the course of the game.
Toulouse made a sluggish start and after a string of mistakes, Sale prop Rodd pounced on a loose ball, hacking forward twice before gathering to dot down with a minute played.
But Toulouse would respond on their first visit to the Sale 22, flanker Flament hitting a great line and dissecting the Sale defence to power over under the posts on four minutes.
Prop Baille squirmed over from close range for the hosts’ second on 16 minutes, and a third came straight from the restart as a delightful flowing move was finished off by scrum-half Dupont.
There was further concern for Sale as hooker van der Merwe was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Toulouse full-back Ramos, but the visitors survived his sin bin period without conceding.
Twinkle toes, @RomainNtamack ✨
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 18, 2022
And buoyed by that effort, Sale ended the half in the ascendancy, reducing the deficit to seven points as van der Merwe crashed over amid an 11-man driving maul.
But it was a nightmare start to the second half for Sale, as Ramos chased a kick in behind and looked to dot down, Byron McGuigan preventing him from doing so with a high tackle, resulting in a penalty try and yellow card for the full-back.
Toulouse took advantage of the extra man this time, another superb attack from deep seeing Dupont win a foot 60-metre foot race to dive on a kick through a scrambling Sale defence.
More deft handling put wing Tauzin over in the corner on 59 minutes, and Toulouse’s tightening grip on the game led to another yellow card for Sale as wing Tom O’Flaherty was reprimanded for a deliberate knock-on.
A period of Sale pressure saw Toulouse replacement prop Charlie Faumuina join O’Flaherty in the sin bin for a cynical infringement, but the home side’s defence held firm and they raced down the other end with a series of superb offloads, fly-half Ntamack eventually splashing over under the posts.
A chaotic end to the game saw both sides claim to have scored tries in the same play, but ultimately neither effort was awarded and Ramos was sent off for a headbutt in a resulting fracas.
There was time for a final play and lock Hill powered over to score Sale’s third, but it was a mere consolation for the travelling team.
Toulouse and Sale clash again in Round 3 as the TOP 14 side outfit the AJ Bell Stadium on January 14.