Sale Sharks held on for a narrow 25-23 victory over the Scarlets at the AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday, with AJ MacGinty kicking five penalties.
The hosts started the match in dominant fashion, tries from Paulo Odogwu and Will Addison established a good early lead.
However, Scarlets rallied just before the break and DTH van der Merwe’s try brought them back into the match heading into the second-half.
A penalty try gave Scarlets hope but AJ MacGinty found his kicking boots in the closing stages to keep the visitors at bay.
Dan Jones did his best to drag his side back into the match with some impressive kicking but Sale held on to clinch victory.
The win is the Sharks’ first in Europe this season as their campaign ends. It also marks a welcome end to an unenviable ten-match losing streak for the English side. Scarlets meanwhile secure a losing bonus-point and finish third in Pool 3, above their opponents.
Sale opened the scoring after two minutes, AJ MacGinty scoring from the tee to send the hosts into an early 3-0 lead. Sale extended their lead after 10 minutes, with Odogwu finishing brilliantly with an acrobatic leap. MacGinty’s conversion sailed wide but Sale held an eight-point lead.
After 18 minutes MacGinty took his side’s lead to 11-points with a penalty, the American international providing further reward for Sale’s early dominance.
Their superiority continued into the 27th minute as Addison carved the Scarlets defence apart with a fantastic run before running in from half-way. MacGinty couldn’t find the target with his conversion but the hosts’ lead stood at a convincing 16-0.
Scarlets rallied with a penalty from Jones as the Welsh side scored their first points of the match. The first try followed not long after, Van der Merwe finished well in the corner to bring his side back into the game. Jones’ conversion made the half-time score 16-10.
MacGinty extended his side’s lead with another penalty in the 48th minute. Jones responded with a further penalty for the visitors after 55 minutes.
MacGinty was on target once more on the hour-mark to restore his side’s nine-point lead, before Scarlets were awarded a penalty try in the 63rd minute after Magnus Lund was penalised for entering a maul from the side. Lund was sent to the sin-bin before Jones stepped up to add the conversion to make the score a narrow 22-20.
Jones nudged the West-Walians into the lead with a well-struck 73rd minute penalty from 40 metres to make it five from five and 22-23.
His Sale counterpart MacGinty was not to be outshone and hit a penalty two minutes later to nudge his side back into the lead for the final time.
Tries: Odogwu, Addison
Pens: MacGinty 5
Yellow Card: Lund
Tries: Van der Merwe, Penalty Try
Cons: D Jones 2
Pens: D Jones 3
Sale Sharks: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Paolo Odogwu, 13 Will Addison (c), 12 Mark Jennings, 11 Josh Charnley, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Laurence Pearce, 7 Magnus Lund, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Andrei Ostrikov, 4 George Nott, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Rob Webber, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 James Flynn, 18 Halani Aulika, 19 Jonathan Mills, 20 Ben Curry, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Sam James, 23 Tom Curry
Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ryan Elias, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tom Price, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Tom Williams, 23 Steff Hughes
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)
TMO: Eric Briquet-Campin (France)