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Sale player ratings vs Leinster | Champions Cup 2023/24

By Liam Heagney
Sale's Rob du Preez after the final whistle in Dublin (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

Sale players ratings live from the RDS: You feared for the Gallagher Premiership leaders as soon as they confirmed their much-changed line-up on Friday.

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No George Ford. No Manu Tuilagi. Even Ben Curry was off the menu for this short hop across the Irish Sea, the Sharks instead making 11 alterations to the XV that got the better of Stade Francais in Manchester in last Sunday’s Investec Champions Cup opener.

With another six-day turnaround for next Friday’s AJ Bell encounter with Saracens in the league, Alex Sanderson had gambled on his squad’s depth being up to scratch and it was… but only to a degree.

Video Spacer

Jacques Nienaber on evolution and why he left international rugby

Former Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has given his first Leinster press conference and at it spoke about how big a role family played in his decision to leave Test rugby. He also spoke about evolution and how it will take a while to get things right at Leinster.

Video Spacer

Jacques Nienaber on evolution and why he left international rugby

Former Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has given his first Leinster press conference and at it spoke about how big a role family played in his decision to leave Test rugby. He also spoke about evolution and how it will take a while to get things right at Leinster.

Their determined effort got them 13-3 ahead midway through the opening half before a loaded Leinster finally strutted their stuff in front of a sell-out crowd following last weekend’s deserved smash-and-grab success at La Rochelle.

The Irish side surged 37-13 ahead with the game heading towards its finish, but the Sharks massaged the margin of their defeat with two converted tries in the closing 90 seconds to leave it 37-27. Here are the Sale player ratings:

Points Flow Chart

Leinster win +10
Time in lead
40
Mins in lead
36
49%
% Of Game In Lead
44%
10%
Possession Last 10 min
90%
2
Points Last 10 min
14

15. Telusa Veainu – 6
Club debut for the Tongan, who was a class Premiership operator at Leicester before quitting for Stade in 2020. Enjoyed a lively start and could have scored but for a yellow carded failed intercept by Robbie Henshaw. Safe hands and some lovely footwork followed.

14. Tom Roebuck – 4
One of the eight Sale players that England boss Steve Borthwick recently visited in Manchester, it will bug him that he knocked on metres from the line near the break after getting double tackled. It was also his slip when trying to tackle Josh van der Flier that opened the door for Leinster to create the opening for a lead after the interval that they never lost.

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13. Connor Doherty – 6
First start this season and rustiness wasn’t an issue judging by how he nearly had Veainu in for an early try before then showing Leinster the calibre of his wheels when racing in for his 25th minute try.

12. Sam Bedlow – 6
A Sale ever-present this term apart from last Sunday’s rest, he was a solid presence and helped counter the frequent rush pressure constantly put on Rob du Preez inside him.

11. Arron Reed – 7
Five tries in seven Premiership appearances this season, he was nearly in at the corner in the opening minutes. Showed excellent tact when chasing and he kept trying to the end, as seen in his late break which resulted in the yellow carding of Hugo Keenan, a space-creating spark for his team’s two late tries against a Leinster side down to 13 with no subs left to come on for the injured Charlie Ngatai.

10. Rob du Preez – 6.5
Tremendous bang for buck all year at either out-half or centre, he scored eight of his team’s 13 first-half points while also giving Doherty the try assist after combining sweetly with Raffi Quirke. Faded in the second period with Leinster on the up.

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9. Raffi Quirke – 6
Just a second 2023/24 start for the England cap in another injury-hit season, there were moments of rashness such as going solo from a ruck in his half without support and giving up a no-release penalty. He also high-tackled Jordan Larmour before Leinster’s opening try, but his class was evident earlier with the grubber kick that created Sale’s first try.

1. Ross Harrison – 7
The 31-year-old’s experience was massively important given the leakage on the other side of the scrum. His defiance was encapsulated by registering a double-figure tackle count by the break to help ensure his team exited two points up.

2. Tommy Taylor – 6.5
One of Sale’s four repeat starters along with Ben Bamber, Sam Dugdale and Roebuck, his energy and nuisance value were important in the first half Sale charge. Finished with a 79th-minute try off a maul.

3. James Harper – 1
A rare start for the rookie and it might be a while before we see him again as his penalty conceding issues at the first-half scrum versus Andrew Porter ended with him being shown a 37th-minute yellow card. Wasn’t sent back on after his binning elapsed.

4. Ben Bamber – 6
Another greenhorn, the 22-year-old enjoyed holding Ryan Baird up over the try line in the early stages and while a penalty for not rolling soon gave Leinster penalty points, he went on to play soundly.

5. Josh Beaumont – 6
His dad Bill had his dancing shoes on down the road in Dublin 2 the other night at the World Rugby Christmas party. Josh was dancing here for quite a while himself with his gritty effort.

6. Ernst van Rhyn – 7.5
The Premiership’s new tackle king, he commendably led the defensive charge here until he was required to go for a HIA. Was a real thorn in the side of the Leinster back row.

7. Sam Dugdale – 6.5
Another back-rower whose doggedness caught the eye until Leinster, especially through van der Flier, got a gallop on them in the second half.

8. Rouban Birch – 6
Heck of a difference between playing Championship level on loan last year at Caldy and making a debut Champions Cup start. Tackled well and showed purpose, but was hooked early in the second half.

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Replacements:
Numerous Sale subs deserve credit. In particular, rookie prop Asher Opoku-Fordjour for winning a penalty at his first scrum and going on to settle this set-piece facet, and also Tom Curtis for his classy breakaway try in the 80th minute.

However, questions must be asked of Jonny Hill and his penchant for fake hardness.

Not long after his 52nd-minute arrival, he unnecessarily went at the prone van der Flier, giving Leinster the penalty that generated the pressure for them to build on their 16-13 lead.

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