Sale Sharks have moved to the top of the Gallagher Premiership after a comprehensive 39-0 victory over London Irish.
Two tries from Sam James, and a try each for his brother Luke James, Rob Webber, Denny Solomona and Byron McGuigan made it three wins in a row for Sale and the result means that they leapfrog Exeter Chiefs in the standings.
A largely uneventful first half burst into life after 18 minutes as James scored the opening try of the game – intercepting a loose London Irish pass on the 10 metre line to run in and set the ball down behind the posts. Rob du Preez added the extras to make it 7-0 to the hosts.
Both sides were looking to build momentum, and to be fair to newly-promoted Irish, they held their own and showed that they could potentially end up in the top six come the end of the season.
Luke James ran in from range on the stroke of half-time to extend Sale’s lead to 12 points at the break.
The hosts moved even further in front as du Preez slotted over a penalty eight minutes after the restart to make it 15-0.
Sale Sharks’ Director of Rugby, Steve Diamond then handed a debut to South Africa World Cup winner Lood de Jager and fellow countryman Faf de Klerk also came on as a replacement to return from a knee injury.
Relentless pressure from Sale was rewarded in the 63rd minute whenever Webber crashed over following a maul off the back of a line-out.
Six minutes later, Sam James scored his second try of the night to secure the bonus point for his team. du Preez added the extras and Sale moved 29 points ahead.
Sale weren’t finished there however as the TMO ruled that Solomona went over six minutes from time before replacement McGuigan went over in the corner in the 81st minute to complete the rout.
Tonight’s victory could be seen as the perfect preparation for Sale as they look ahead to the Premiership Rugby Cup final against Harlequins next Sunday. A win in that game could end the Sharks’ 14-year wait for a trophy.
Sale Sharks: (15-9) Hammersley, Solomona, S James, L James, Yarde (McGuigan 64′), R du Preez (Curtis 70′), Will Cliff (de Klerk 55′) (1-8) Oosthuizen (Harrison 52′), Webber (Langdon 70′), Cooper-Woolley (John 40′), Evans (Postlethwaite 70′), J-L du Preez, Ross (c) (de Jager 55′), Curry, D du Preez
London Irish: (15-9) Parton, Loader, Rona, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins, Myler (Rogerson 64′), Meehan (1-8) Elrington, Matu’u (Fainga’a 64′), Hoskins (Chawatama 45′), van der Merwe (c), Mafi (Maddison 64′), O’Brien (Cowan 49′), Donnell (Goodrick-Clarke 59′), Tuisue (Phipps 64′)
Referee: Anthony Woodthorpe
Image credit: Sale Sharks