Toulon struggle to down Sale in European Cup


Sale (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Three-time champions Toulon edged Sale 15-5 in the European Champions Cup on Friday, but their failure to claim a bonus point could prove fatal to their chances of reaching the knockout round.

The French giants scored all of their points in the first quarter of the match and in an underwhelming display on the outskirts of Manchester they were fortunate to escape with a win.

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond admitted that his team fell just short against the misfiring French superstars.

"We stood toe to toe with them but didn't have enough bullets in the gun," he said.

"We had field position in the last 20 minutes but, fair play to them, they counteracted our drive. But there were a lot of young English lads out there who stood their corner."

After slumping to a 31-23 home defeat to defending champions Saracens in their tournament opener last weekend Toulon were handed the perfect start on Friday.

Sale flanker Magnus Lund was yellow-carded for a late tackle on Juan Fernandez Lobbe and Toulon pounced, scoring all of their 15 points while their opponents were a man down.

Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny popped over the penalty awarded for Lund's infringement before the French side scored two quickfire tries.

Mamuka Gorgodze smashed through the defensive line to allow Charles Ollivon to score his fifth try of the season, shrugging off a tackle from Peter Stringer, who was playing despite having attended the funeral of former Irish teammate Anthony Foley earlier in the day.

Halfpenny kicked the conversion before the Welsh star added his team's second try.

Fly-half Francois Trinh Duc punted a testing crossfield kick deep into the corner where Sale winger Byron McGuigan was unable to gather cleanly.

As the ball dropped, Halfpenny was alert to the opportunity to dart over from close range for his first try of the campaign. Halfpenny was unable to convert from tight on the line.

Toulon were then reduced to 14 men when skipper and No.8 Duane Vermeulen was sin-binned for tripping.

Sale, beaten 28-11 at Sacrlets last week, got on the board when winger Paolo Odogwu sprinted away down the left flank to score after a neat exchange of passes between Mike Haley, Will Addison and Sam James had capitalised on a poor clearing kick from Halfpenny.

Addison missed the conversion as Toulon held on to their 15-5 lead at the interval.

Halfpenny missed a tough penalty early in the second period before Addison saw his own penalty effort, far more easier, hit the post.

Sale were much the better side in the second half but were left to regret not going for the posts on three occasions which could have yielded a crucial nine points.