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Sale Sharks dismantle Scarlets as AJ MacGinty breaks Charlie Hodgson record

By PA

Sale Sharks booked a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final trip to La Rochelle after crushing the Scarlets 57-14 in Llanelli.

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Sale’s first European Cup last-eight appearance for 15 years was never in doubt after they produced a dominant display built on immense forward power.

The Scarlets had no answer as hooker Akker van der Merwe scored two first-half tries, while fly-half AJ MacGinty kicked two conversions and three penalties to open up a 23-0 interval lead.

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MacGinty finished with 32 points, breaking Charlie Hodgson’s individual Sale record for a European Cup game set in 2006.

His haul included a try while wing Marland Yarde, lock Josh Beaumont and substitute scrum-half Raphael Quirke also touched down, and MacGinty’s immaculate performance featured 11 successful kicks out of 11.

Wales hooker Ken Owens and flanker Jac Morgan scored tries for the Scarlets that full-back Leigh Halfpenny converted, but the Welsh side were outclassed and outmuscled as Sale cut loose and condemned their opponents to a record European Cup home defeat.

Sale and European Cup holders Exeter will fly the English flag next weekend, although La Rochelle showed impressive quality in beating Gloucester and the Chiefs must overcome four-time tournament winners Leinster.

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The Scarlets included nine of Wales’ Guinness Six Nations-winning squad in their matchday 23, including a return for skipper Owens, while Halfpenny made his first appearance since failing a head injury assessment during the victory over Scotland seven weeks ago.

Sale welcomed back England flanker Tom Curry among six changes from the side that beat Gallagher Premiership opponents Wasps last Saturday, but captain Jono Ross was ruled out so Beaumont took over as skipper.

MacGinty kicked Sale into a second-minute lead following a Scarlets scrum infringement, and early signs were positive for the visitors as De Klerk dictated play.

Sale dominated the opening quarter but Scarlets did not help themselves at times and they contributed to Sharks’ first try. Owens was the guilty party, overthrowing at a lineout inside Scarlets’ 22, with the ball going straight to his opposite number Van der Merwe who smashed through three defenders to touch down.

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MacGinty’s conversion opened up a 10-point lead and the Welsh side could have few complaints as they struggled to make any impact.

MacGinty kicked another penalty before Sale were inches away from a second touchdown, but centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg narrowly failed to exert sufficient downward pressure after chasing a kick.

Scarlets v Sale Sharks - Heineken Champions Cup - Parc y Scarlets

The visitors, though, did not have to wait long to compound Scarlets’ misery and it was Van der Merwe who struck again, this time from a lineout drive, with MacGinty’s conversion making it 20-0.

He completed his penalty hat-trick four minutes before the break, leaving Scarlets with a mountain to climb as they trailed by 23 points at the interval and lost Wales centre Johnny Williams through injury.

Sale’s dominance showed no sign of relenting and they scored again just three minutes after the restart when MacGinty won his own kick and chase before slotting an easy conversion.

Scarlets v Sale Sharks - Heineken Champions Cup - Parc y Scarlets

Owens opened Scarlets’ account when he was driven over the line for a try that Halfpenny converted, but it felt like a mere consolation effort even with more than 30 minutes left.

And normal service soon resumed after De Klerk snapped away at the heels of his forwards, pushing them through phase after phase until possession was shipped wide and Yarde crossed wide out.

MacGinty converted and even though Sale boss Alex Sanderson began making changes, there was no let-up in Sale’s relentless approach.

McGinty’s sharp midfield break created try number five as Beaumont went over unopposed. MacGinty’s conversion edged his team within sight of 50 points, and they got there through two more penalties.

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Shaylen 38 minutes ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 6 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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FEATURE Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt
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