Jamal Niaz Champions Cup
It was another tough outing in the Champions Cup for Team Morson's Sale Sharks yesterday, as Steve Diamond's side narrowly lost 20-22 to Exeter in a thrilling encounter at the AJ Bell. Sale currently sit at third in Pool 2 and will be looking to keep their hopes of progression alive in the return fixture at Exeter next weekend.
Prior to the game we caught up with England's head coach Eddie Jones, who gave us his pre-game thoughts:
"I'd imagine it's going to be a really tough tussle. They've both looked pretty good. I think Sale's best Rugby is ahead of them, they've had a lot of new players come in and I'm sure Steve Diamond's men will be hoping it comes together"
The Sharks began the game on the front foot and opened the scoring in the 9th minute through a Rob du Preez penalty. Exeter looked to answer back as Hogg broke through the Sharks backs, but Ashton made great ground to get back and make the tackle in front of the sticks. However, a penalty try was awarded as Tom Curry tackled the 9 from an offside position. The away side extended their lead moments later, as Hogg went over after his chip and chase beat Ross. Simmonds was unable to convert and the score was 3-12 to the Chiefs after 17 minutes of play.
Simmonds quickly made amends for his missed kick, as Sale were penalised for offside and he was good for the three points. The Sharks managed to get their first try of the day as Akker picked up the spills from the Chiefs’ failed clearance and got over. Rob du Preez missed the follow up from out wide and the score was 8-15 after a frantic opening 21 minutes. The end to end nature of the game continued, as Exeter responded with another try, with Cowan-Dickie getting over next to the posts. Simmonds was good for the conversion, as Exeter had a 14-point lead. Sale looked to reduce the deficit again and a fantastic drive from a line out saw Akker get over for his second of the game, to the roar of a sold-out AJ Bell. Rob du Preez pushed his kick just wide as the Sharks were trailing 13-22 heading into the break.
Exeter began the second half with a relentless series of attacks, but the Sharks defence held up as the game during this period as the game reached the 60-minute mark. The Sharks managed to mount pressure of their own as they barraged towards the Exeter 22 with time running out. Sale got over in the 71st minute, but the try wasn’t given due to no clear grounding. The late pressure from the home side soon paid off, as Jono Ross stormed over and Rob du Preez was good for the follow up. This brought the scores to 20-22 with five minutes to play, setting up nail biting final moments. Despite the late charge from the Sharks, Exeter managed to hold on for their third successive victory in Europe.
"I thought we coughed it up in the first half to be honest. The weather looked a lot worse in the first half by the looks of it, but we hit a couple of exits and a side like Exeter will just prey on you. We just didn't exit from a couple of set-pieces and a couple of areas. Apart from that I think we did enough to challenge"
"I thought in attack. The lineout functioned, we've had some issues with that recently. I thought the scrum was dominant with the starting front row and then the props came on. We emulate exeter in a lot of things they do. Their forwards were good, I thought our forwards matched them today and probably edged them near the end"
15. Simon Hammersley, 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Sam James, 12. Rohan Janse van Rensberg, 11. Marland Yarde, 10. Rob Du Preez, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Jono Ross. 7. Ben Curry, 6. Tom Curry, 5. James Phillips, 4. Bryn Evans, 3. WillGriff John, 2. Akker van der Merwe, 1. Coenie Oosthuizen
16. Curtis Langdon, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Jake Cooper-Wooley, 19. Matt Postlethwaite, 20. Cameron Nield, 21. Will Cliff, 22. Luke James, 23. Denny Solomona
15. Stuart Hogg, 14. Jack Nowell, 13. Henry Slade, 12. Sam Hill, 11. Ian Whitten, 10. Joe Simmonds, 9. Nic White, 8. Sam Simmonds, 7. Jacques Vermeulen, 6. Dave Ewers, 5. Jonny Hill, 4. Dave Dennis, 3. Harry Williams, 2. Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1. Alec Hepburn
16. Elvis Taione, 17. Ben Moon, 18. Marcus Steet, 19. Jannes Kirsten, 20. Don Armand, 21. Jack Maunder, 22. Gareth Steenson, 23. Olly Woodburn
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