Sale Sharks ended their Heineken Champions Cup campaign with a 45-7 home defeat at the hands of Glasgow Warriors.
Tries from Leone Nakarawa, Fraser Brown, DTH van der Merwe, Sam Johnson, Jonny Gray and George Turner sealed the victory for the Scottish outfit
Sale Director of Rugby Steve Diamond made several changes to the side that played La Rochelle at the Stade Marcel-Deflandre last Friday night, giving youth a run out in Europe’s premier rugby competition.
With the Premiership being the main focus in these parts this season, Diamond was keen to use the Champions Cup as a learning experience and find out what it takes to compete at the highest level.
In the reverse fixture on the opening weekend, Glasgow were the victors and it didn’t take long to show why they were favourites this time around too.
Flanker Nakarawa went over in the corner with less than three minutes on the clock and from that moment things were looking ominous. This was going to be a stern test for the Sharks’ youngsters.
Glasgow, who themselves are pushing in the Pro14, added a second try through hooker Brown. By that point, Sale were down to 14 men after captain Jono Ross was sent to the sin bin after making contact with the head while falling over.
The visitors continued to test a Sharks side that contained a number of Academy players – dominating long periods in the first half, making it clear for all to see the gulf between the two sides.
However, Sale did show glimpses of what threat they could pose. Strong at the lineout, they were able to recycle the ball in the Glasgow 22, but to no avail as the visitors’ defence remained resolute.
Less than half an hour into the game and the Warriors had their third try through DTH van der Merwe. The winger went over with ease to extend the lead to 21 points.
Initially, whatever Diamond said at half-time didn’t work as Sale remained on the back foot. However, the defence was able to absorb the pressure and keep the strong Glasgow pack at bay for a little while longer.
This didn’t last as Johnson was able to carve his way through and go over to secure the bonus point for the visitors and mover 28 points clear.
Eight minutes later, Sale manged to claw a score back through replacement Jake Cooper-Woolley. The replacement prop had only been on the field for a few minutes, but crashed over to finish a move that was set up by a sumptuous kick and chase from winger Denny Solomona. Tom Curtis added the extras to reduce the deficit to 21 points.
Glasgow fly-half added a penalty before second row Gray scored for the visitors in the 65th minute to move three scores ahead.
Five minutes from time, Turner ran through unopposed to complete the rout for Glasgow. They now have a nervous wait to see if they will reach the quarter-finals. They need other results to go their way tomorrow.
As for Sale, they return to Premiership action next weekend and travel to Sandy Park for a clash with Exeter Chiefs.
Sale Sharks (Backs): Joe Carpenter (Redpath 49’), Denny Solomona (Roebuck 59’), Luke James, James Williams, Marland Yarde, Tom Curtis, Will Cliff (Warr 59’) (Forwards): Ross Harrison, Curtis Langdon (Webber 49’), Will-Griff John (Cooper-Woolley 49’), Matt Postlethwaite, James Phillips, Tom Curry (Neild 51’), Ben Curry, Jono Ross (Dugdale 59’)
Replacements: Rob Webber, Ben Carlile, Jake Cooper-Wooley, Sam Dugdale, Cameron Neild, Gus Warr, Cameron Redpath, Tom Roebuck
Glasgow Warriors (Backs): Glenn Bryce, Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones, Sam Johnson, DTH van der Merwe (Matawalu 59’), Adam Hastings, Ali Price (G Horne 58’) (Forwards): Aki Seiuli (Kebble 59’), Fraser Brown (Turner 58’), Zander Fagerson (Nicol 66’), Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray, Leone Nakarawa, Tom Gordon (Fusaro 66’), Ryan Wilson (Harley 53’)
Replacements: George Turner, Oli Kebble, Adam Nicol, Rob Harley, Chris Fusaro, George Horne, Pete Horne, Niko Matawalu
Referee: Pascal Gauzère (FRA)
Image credit: Sale Sharks