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Second-half Leinster power surge proves too much for Sale

By Liam Heagney
Leinster's Thomas Clarkson tussles with Sale's Ross Harrison (Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

On a day when the Stormers struck at the death in Cape Town to win 21-20 and condemn defending champions La Rochelle to another Pool 4 defeat six days after they lost at home in France to Leinster, the Irish province took over pole position in the group with a hard-fought 37-27 win over Sale in Dublin.

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In making 11 changes to their starting XV after eventually getting the better of Stade Francais in Manchester, including the resting of England pair George Ford and Manu Tuilagi, the Sharks arrived looking toothless and seemingly with both eyes firmly on hosting Saracens at the AJ Bell next Friday in the league.

That defeatist impression was off the mark, however, as some true northern English grit made this an engrossing, result-in-the-balance encounter for about an hour or so.

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The visitors had the temerity to lead 13-3 during the first half and despite their scrum painfully malfunctioning, costing them points and a yellow card, they were still two points up at the break and good value for that 13-11 advantage.

In the end, they were found out by Leinster’s second-half power surge which consisted of four tries and the punishment on the scoreboard would have been worse than 10 points but for late, late consolation tries from Tommy Taylor and Tom Curtis with the hosts downs to 13 with Hugo Keenan in the bin and no one left on the bench to replace the injured Charlie Ngatai.

22m Entries

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Avg. Points Scored
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That flourish, though, wasn’t enough to earn the bonus-pointless Sale anything other than some pride. They had started threateningly from the first whistle, Aaron Reed nearly making it over at the corner before Leinster had Robbie Henshaw sin-binned by referee Pierre Brousset for deliberately knocking on a pass from Connor Doherty to Telusa Veainu with the line approaching.

The visitors opted for the posts, Rob du Preez landing the fourth-minute kick, but the English team was soon in trouble at the scrum, an infringement costing them the territory that culminated in Josh van der Flier barrelling over for a try that was disallowed due to a knock-on by Ryan Baird in the lead-up.

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A second James Harper scrum concession then resulted in Baird getting held up over the line after a Leinster tap and go, Ben Bamber getting the credit for the intervention, but the Sale second row was then at fault for the not rolling away penalty that allowed Ciaran Frawley to tie the scores at three-all with the Henshaw sin-bin over.

Curiously, it was with the contest now restored to 15 versus 15 that Leinster fell into even greater arrears than before. Initially, their backs strayed offside when rushing Sale possession from a scrum and du Preez punished this with penalty points.

Sale optimism was then further inflated when Harper won a penalty at a scrum in his team’s 22 and after possession was kicked out for a halfway throw, a crafty Raffi Quirke grubber fractured the Leinster defence with du Preez grabbing the bouncing ball and timing the pass to perfection to send in Doherty for the converted 25th minute try as a 13-3 advantage.

Leinster had a respite from another creaky Sale scrum, Frawley again on point from the kicking tee five minutes later, and the home fans also appreciated Tom Roebuck losing grasp of the ball when double tackled five metres from the line. Then came the sin-binning of Harper three minutes before the interval following another scrum mishap versus Andrew Porter – and it was costly.

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A Dan Sheehan break scattered the Sale defence down the left before Jordan Larmour was high tackled on the right by Quirke and from the penalty kicked to touch, Leinster mauled their way over with van der Flier getting the try he had been denied in the early stages.

Sale still exited ahead on the scoreboard 13-11 after Frawley missed the touchline conversion but that joy was short-lived as less than three minutes of the second period was played when Roebuck was given the slip on halfway by van der Flier and the flanker galloped away and drew the remaining cover before giving Jamison Gibson-Park the try-assist pass for a 16-13 lead.

Next, unnecessary Jonny Hill antics on the ground near halfway with van der Flier within a minute of his introduction from the bench sparked the pressure for the third Leinster try, repeated pick-and-go eventually ushering Henshaw in at the posts on 56 minutes and Frawley converted for 23-13.

Minus their tackle king Ernst van Rhyn, who needed a HIA, Sale now looked somewhat ragged and Leinster’s bonus point try arrived six minutes later, Baird making amends for his first-half handling error near the line by getting over for a score added to by Frawley.

The margin had now grown to a chasm with Leo Cullen’s team 30-13 up and it extended even more, sub Cian Healy joining in the try-scoring fun 10 minutes from time, a score converted by young Sam Prendergast.

However, rather than Leinster trooping off 37-13 winners, late converted Sale tries from Taylor and Curtis left the margin of defeat at a more palatable 10 points.

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1 Comment
S
Schalk 181 days ago

With JN on board, they have done a Springbok-ish come from behind win twice in a row now.

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