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Sharks slaughtered in French rout
SALE Sharks entered this year’s Heineken Cup ‘Pool of Death’ by fielding a willing, if not inexperienced line up at Toulouse’s Municipal Stadium on Sunday.
With Cardiff Blues visiting Edgeley Park next Friday after a five-day turnaround, Director of Rugby Kingsley Jones left a plethora of big names behind to rest, whilst giving centre David Bishop a debut and five others their first senior appearance of the season.
Backed by a passionate and partisan crowd of 28,534, Toulouse’s multi-international lineup had by far the better of the first half exchanges with tries from Medard and Clerc (2) Two were the fruits of precise crossfield kicks from fly half Elissalde, who added three conversions and a penalty for good measure. Sharks’ only riposte came when acting number ten Nick Macleod sent over a fourth minute penalty.
The half time scoreline of 24-3 altered two minutes after the break when substitute Donguy secured the inevitable bonus point with a try down the left. The rare sight of six further replacements by Toulouse, all at once in the 47th minute, prompted a Sharks’ territorial revival, with Tuilagi, Seymour, Peel, Fearns and Cox showing their true mettle. Against the run of play, Donguy scored again, Michalak converting, and there were fears that the expected crushing defeat was about to happen. But the young Sharks had other ideas, ending strongly with two tries in the last five minutes. First, Rob O’Donnell, restored to prop after a spell at lock, peeled off the back of a lineout to receive Tait’s flicked assist, then, in the game’s final move, Cohen received a pass from Cox to run in his first try for his new club. The admirable Macleod converted both tries to lessen the arrears to under twenty points.
Attention now switches to part two of Kingsley Jones’s calculated gamble. Having rested key personnel, including Cueto, M.Tait, Hodgson, Sheridan, E.Roberts, Schofield and C.Jones, Friday’s game against Dai Young’s Cardiff Blues is a ‘must win’ scenario, or else the ‘blooding of youth’ in the South of France will have been in vain. Kick off is 8.00 p.m.. For tickets, ring 08444 994 994.