Alex Sanderson says Sale Sharks will relish the prospect of a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final against La Rochelle’s “galacticos” after smashing the Scarlets 57-14 in Llanelli.
A tough trip to France now awaits the Sharks after they booked a first European Cup last-eight tie for 15 years.
And it was never in doubt as they produced a dominant display built on immense forward power and 32 points – a Sale European Cup record – from fly-half AJ MacGinty.
“They (La Rochelle) are a side who pride themselves on that physicality and defence and are good over the ball, as we do, so that will be a good match-up,” Sale rugby director Sanderson said.
“Then you have to handle some of their brilliant ball-carriers and galactico stars. I am very excited about that prospect.
“I think this is the best club tournament in the world. It’s brilliant. There is an intensity and buzz about it, and it’s a sabbatical away from the grind of the Premiership.
“The intent is there that we are going for this. It takes a gargantuan effort to win it and you need a little bit of luck.”
The Scarlets had no answer as hooker Akker van der Merwe scored two first-half tries, while MacGinty kicked two conversions and three penalties to open up a 23-0 interval lead.
MacGinty’s final haul broke Charlie Hodgson’s European individual Sale best of 22 points, set in 2006.
His immaculate performance featured a try and 11 successful kicks out of 11 while wing Marland Yarde, lock Josh Beaumont and substitute scrum-half Raphael Quirke also touched down.
Sanderson added: “I would not think we would come down and win (with) 57 points. They are better than that, and we know that. We caught them cold and we were red-hot.
“Everything seemed to click today and you get those kind of games. We have felt like a good performance has been coming and today was a level up.”
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.
Owens offered no excuses for his team’s demise, with Scarlets’ exit ending Welsh interest in this season’s European Cup and European Challenge Cup competitions.
“Nothing much went right,” Owens said. “Rugby is a very simple game and we didn’t match their physicality at all.
“We made back-to-back errors, especially in the first 30 minutes, far too often, which played into their hands.
“They came very direct, which we knew they would, and it is very difficult to stop when they get it right.
“They controlled the contact area, the gain-line and line speed, which summed up the game.
“We were beaten by a better side on the day. We got dominated physically. We can’t have any complaints.
“We have had a hiding today and we can’t shy away from that. We are definitely a lot better side than what we showed tonight.”
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