La Rochelle 45-21 Sale: Sharks outclassed as host and hostess book place in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup
La Rochelle 45-21 sale: Sharks outclassed as hosts in six tries to secure a place in the Champions Cup semi-finals for the first time
- The French La Rochelle ran in six attempts in an emphatic victory on Saturday
- Wing Raymond Rhule and center Geoffrey Doumayrou both scored braces
- Sale winger Byron McGuigan landed for a belated consolation attempt
What a difference a week makes! After blowing the Scarlets apart with six tries last weekend to reach the Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals for the first time in 15 years, Sale Sharks found themselves at the wrong end of a six-try at La Rochelle.
Despite reaching the halfway point just two points behind, the Sharks, who entered the game with the best defensive record in the premier league, leaked four more tries as their dreams of a first-ever semi-final in the top league of the European league. were shattered.
It left new head coach Alex Sanderson a missed opportunity but vowed that his team will better return for the lessons learned against a powerhouse La Rochelle.
La Rochelle claimed a place in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup for the first time
‘I thought we were in the races after an extremely competitive first half in which we gave them some relatively soft tries. But we weren’t in the second half, ” admitted Sanderson.
‘We had parity on most of the collisions around the field, but it went wrong for us against their set-piece power. I knew the players would keep fighting and I was proud of their efforts.
‘It’s a learning curve for us and you have to lose these kinds of games before you can come back to win them. This is just the beginning for us and we will bounce back. ‘
After working their way back to two runs with an excellent try from center Sam James just before half time, it looked like the Sharks might just go ahead and disrupt the odds. Two tries in the first 12 minutes of the second half by wing Raymond Rhule turned the game firmly in favor of the home side and paved the way for them to reach the last four for the first time.
The home team scored two tries in the first half to build a nine-point lead, but Sale hit back with a great own score just before half-time, narrowing the gap to two points and keeping the game in the melting pot. .
Dillyn Leyds of La Rochelle sprinted clear after clearing the ball from the toes of Faf de Klerk
Rhule split the Sharks defense from a lineout after a neat pass from Ihaia West 40 yards away, then joined on a cross field kick from man of the match Brice Dullin who cruelly exposed Simon Hammersley to increase the lead to 14 points.
French international center Geoffrey Doumayrou then came into action with two more tries as the two-point lead increased to 29 points, as their physical dominance allowed them to unleash their rear division.
AJ MacGinty exchanged two penalties with counterpart West before La Rochelle scored the first of their six tries. A towering top and bottom from West was not handled by Hammersley and a cross field kick by West found No. 8 Victor Vito hanging out in the wide open spaces.
The former All Black got in touch and somehow passed the ball behind his tackler to release fellow back man Greg Alldritt for an excellent score. MacGinty’s third penalty in the half brought it back to a two-point lead, but a halfway blindside raid by Faf de Klerk was saddened.
As he tried to free Marland Yarde, his stride was toppled, and back between his legs, by wing Dillyn Leyds. He picked up, pinned his ears back, and ran to the right corner for an attempt that West improved from the sidelines.
That seemed decisive, but the Sharks had other ideas. Smooth control along their back line, and a great support line from center Sam James gave them a try with the last move of the half.
MacGinty missed the conversion, but Irish referee Andrew Brace gave him a second shot after seeing Will Skelton yelling at him as he ran to kick him. This time he made no mistake and the gap was back to two points at the break.
Then came the Rhule and Doumayrou double acts before Bryon McGuigan picked up a consolation score for the visitors at death.