European Champions Cup: RC Toulon 27-12 Sale Sharks

Bryan Habana
Bryan Habana capitalised on a Sale mistake to cross in the second half
European Champions Cup Pool Three
Toulon (5) 27
Tries: Nonu, Habana, Pelissie, Tuisova Cons: Halfpenny 2 Pens: Halfpenny
Sale (7) 12
Tries: Jones, Webber Cons: Addison

Toulon's bonus-point win over Sale kept alive their hopes of a place in the last eight of the Champions Cup.

Sam James' converted try cancelled out Ma'a Nonu's opener to give the Sharks a 7-5 first-half advantage.

A Leigh Halfpenny penalty and Bryan Habana's score restored the lead for the three-time champions.

And although Rob Webber's try narrowed the gap, Jonathan Pelissie and Josua Tuisova went over in the last two minutes while Sale were down to 14 men.

Maximum points for the French side, coached by former Bath boss Mike Ford and Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill, takes the pressure off for their final pool game against reigning champions Saracens, who have already secured a quarter-final spot.

Winless Sale, meanwhile, have now lost their last 10 matches in all competitions and cannot progress in Europe, but they produced an impressive display against their Top 14 opponents.

The hosts needed only two minutes to get off the mark, as All Black Nonu burst through the defence to touch down, but Halfpenny missed the conversion.

The Sharks pulled themselves ahead when James chipped forward, capitalised on an awkward bounce and raced over the line, with Will Addison adding the extras.

Toulon then lost Halfpenny to the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on, but he made amends when he kicked his side ahead in the second half.

Sale's hard work began to unravel when full-back Mike Haley's clearance was charged down by Habana and he crossed to score, with Halfpenny converting.

The visitors heaped the pressure back on Toulon after hooker Webber forced his way over the line, but Addison missed the extras, and they soon lost Kieran Longbottom to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle.

Two quick Toulon breaks sent Pelissie and Tuisova over to make sure of the home win.

Sale head coach Steve Diamond:

"The scoreline didn't reflect the game. The first 60-65 minutes it was a very good game, but their bench made the difference in the end.

"Matt Giteau came on and made a big difference for them, but there was a lot of pride in our performance. We had 21 English-qualified players in our matchday squad and we are proud of what we are doing at the club.

"A lot of young lads got some exposure to Champions Cup rugby, but what we need now is stability in the Premiership."

Toulon centre Mathieu Bastareaud:

"We're going to go at Saracens with a lot of enthusiasm. But firstly we've got to put the Sale game behind us and then we can start thinking about what is going to be a very big game at Allianz Park.

"We would have loved not to have had the suspense at the finish. We got the victory in the end, but it was a very tough one against a very good team that had nothing to lose."

Toulon: Leigh Halfpenny; James O'Connor, Mathieu Bastareaud, Ma'a Nonu, Bryan Habana; Pierre Bernard, Sebastien Tillous-Borde; Laurent Delboulbès, Guilhem Guirado, Marcel Van Der Merwe; Jocelino Suta, Samu Manoa; Liam Gill, Juan Fernandez Lobbe, Duane Vermeulen (capt)

Replacements: Jean-Charles Orioli, Florian Fresia, Levan Chilachava, Juan Smith, Matt Giteau, Josua Tuisova, Jonathan Pelissie, Mamuka Gorgodze

Sale Sharks: Mike Haley; Paolo Odogwu, Will Addison (capt), Mark Jennings, Josh Charnley; Sam James, Mike Phillips; Ross Harrison, Rob Webber, Halani Aulika; Bryn Evans, Jonathan Mills; Magnus Lund, David Seymour, Laurence Pearce.

Replacements: Neil Briggs, James Flynn, Kieran Longbottom, George Nott, Ben Curry, Tom Curry, James Mitchell, Dan Mugford.

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