Ireland stars power Leinster past Sale Sharks while Lyon leave it late to sink Bulls

Jared Wright
Josh van der Flier for Leinster against Sale Sharks.

Josh van der Flier for Leinster against Sale Sharks.

Leinster survived a minor scare against an impressive Sale Sharks outfit in their Champions Cup pool clash on Saturday but regrouped to win 37-27 at the RDS.

Tries from Josh van der Flier, Jamison Gibson-Park, Robbie Henshaw, Ryan Baird and Cian Healy saw them to what looks like a comfortable win but it was anything but.

Connor Doherty, Tommy Taylor and Tom Curtis claimed Sale‘s tries as they could not back up last week’s opening round triumph over Stade Francais at the AJ Bell Stadium.

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Despite not capitalising on Henshaw’s early sin-binning, Sale led 13-11 at half-time thanks to two Rob du Preez penalties and a slickly-crafted try from Doherty.

An off-colour Leinster, six days on from winning in La Rochelle, were 10 points in arrears at one stage.

Van der Flier crossed just before the break, adding to Ciaran Frawley’s brace of penalties.

However, Leo Cullen’s men controlled most of final 40 minutes, with Gibson-Park touching down before James Harper’s return from the sin bin.

Henshaw and Baird took care of the bonus point and replacement Healy added a fifth try before Taylor and Curtis squeezed in late Sharks scores on the back of a Hugo Keenan yellow.

Despite rotating heavily from last week’s 28-5 victory over Stade Francais, Sale made a strong start as Telusa Veainu threatened close to the Leinster posts.

Henshaw got in to disrupt Doherty’s pass, only for referee Pierre Brousset to rule that he had played Veainu’s arm for a yellow card offence. Captain Du Preez’s penalty opened the scoring.

Player-of-the-match Van der Flier had a try ruled out for a knock-on from Baird, who was also held up before Frawley and Du Preez swapped penalties.

Sale silenced the home crowd in the 24th minute when Raffi Quirke’s grubber kick sat up for Du Preez to send Doherty speeding over from 35 metres out. Du Preez converted for a 13-3 lead.

Leinster’s superior scrum allowed Frawley to pull three points back before tighthead Harper was binned for repeated infringements.

Van der Flier grounded the ball off a late maul and the Ireland flanker then cut in from the left wing to set up Gibson-Park just two minutes after the restart.

Henshaw crashed in under the posts in the 56th minute, past Ernst van Rhyn’s attempted tackle. Frawley converted for a 23-13 scoreline.

Leinster’s quicker ruck speed had Keenan going close before Baird bagged the bonus point from close range and Frawley converted again.

Van der Flier denied Sale from a maul and Healy powered over in the 69th minute after a Ben Murphy pass bounced backwards off Baird. Champions Cup debutant Sam Prendergast converted.

Nonetheless, Sale rallied impressively late on. Keenan saw yellow for taking out Arron Reed after a kick and hooker Taylor scored from the resulting lineout drive.

Du Preez converted and also added the extras to replacement Curtis’ score, which saw Reed brilliantly take off from inside the visitors’ 22 and create the opening.

Still, their bonus point push came too late.

Bulls fall short in Lyon

Lyon sealed their first win of the Champions Cup season, defeating the Bulls 29-28 at the Matmut Stadium in Lyon on Saturday.

The French outfit trailed the visitors for the majority of the match but sealed the win thanks to a late try by replacement centre Thibault Regard.

Ethan Dumortier, Pierre-Emmanuel Pacheco, Aofred Parisien, Yanis Charcosset and Regard all crossed the whitewash to claim the bonus point for Lyon, with Martin Page-Relo and Paddy Jackson each adding a conversion.

Tries from Zak Burger, Sergeal Petersen and Marco van Staden, plus two Chris Smith conversions and three penalties, was not enough to see the Bulls to victory, with Jaco van der Walt missing a potential match-winner.

The Bulls made wholesale changes from the team that defeated defending Premiership champions Saracens 27-16 in Pretoria, with just two players retaining their starting role from the round one win.

Jake White’s charges got off to a perfect start as hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels charged down a clearance kick from Lyon full-back Thaakir Abrahams and Bulls number nine Burger was quickest to react and open the scoring just two minutes into the game. Smith added the conversion and a penalty to put the visitors up 10-0.

Their response would come through their young star Dumortier, who latched onto the end of a stellar crosskick from Fletcher Smith to open Lyon’s account early in the second quarter; Page-Relo added the extras.

The Bulls’ response was swift as they attacked the short side, where flanker Celimpilo Gumede managed to produce a wonderful offload while superbly staying infield to send winger Petersen over the line. Lyon would have the final say of the half as flanker Pacheco powered over in the corner after a joyous counterattack, cutting the Bulls’ lead to 18-12 with Page-Relo missing the conversion.

Lyon’s late blitz

Smith pushed the Bulls into a nine-point lead soon after the break, but it did not take long for Abrahams to spark Lyon’s next score, slicing through the visitors’ defence, with Parisien rounding off the score two phases later. Lyon went into the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute thanks to a set lineout move which saw hooker Charcosset speed into space before he launched himself into the air for the bonus point score.

Again, the Bulls quickly responded as flanker Van Staden won a penalty from the resulting restarts. Lyon managed to hold off the Bulls initially but a tap penalty paid dividends for the visitors as van Staden hammered over the line from close range to put his side back in the lead. The see-saw nature of the fixture continued as Felix Lambey’s offload saw Charcosset burst through the defence, and Lyon quickly shifted the ball wide to Regard, who dived over in the corner; Jackson’s missed conversion meant it was a one-point game in favour of the hosts in the final eight minutes.

The Bulls had the opportunity to snatch back the lead, but replacement fly-half van der Walt clipped the upright with his attempt. That miss proved costly as Lyon would close out the win despite some late controversy with Lambey slapping the ball backwards out of the hands of lock Janko Swanepoel. However, the officials judged that the Lyon lock had hit the ball backwards, which did not warrant a penalty, sealing Lyon’s first win in this season’s tournament.

Champions Cup action now pauses for the festive season with the Bulls returning to South Africa for a clash with the Stormers in the URC while Lyon are away to Bordeaux in the Top 14.

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