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Saturday, December 17, 2005


Other Tournaments: Sale's forward charge proves too much for Castres

Sale 35 - 3 Castres

Andy Wilson at Edgeley Park
Saturday December 17, 2005
The Guardian

Sébastien Chabal celebrated the new three-year contract he signed with Sale last week with a try either side of half-time to extend their lead at the top of Pool One and take the English side to within touching distance of a first appearance in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

The back-row broke Castres' unconvincing resistance by plunging over from close range late in the first half, then added a spectacular second with a 70-metre gallop after intercepting Phil Christophers' pass to remove any doubt about the result.

Jason Robinson scored a third Sale try while the Castres hooker David Roumieu was still in the sin-bin for an infringement in the build-up to Chabal's first, and the substitute Robert Todd completed a near- perfect night for the Sharks by securing their bonus point with the last touch of the match. "Before the game I will sign for this," Sale's rugby director Philippe Saint-Andre said after a second win in a week against Castres. Even a worrying-looking injury to the England wing Mark Cueto turned out to be nothing more serious than a bang to his hip.
"I don't think it was our best performance, we can improve by 40%. But if we win, we score four tries and we still have a lot of work to do, that is good."

Sale are still not mathematically certain of a place in the last eight but, as their next European game is at home to Newport Gwent Dragons next month, they must now be favourites to guarantee a home quarter-final before travelling to Munster for their last pool match.

This was a far more comfortable night than last week's tight battle in Castres. The physical and mental superiority which Sale's forwards had worked so hard to establish there was never threatened by visitors who reinforced the stereotype about French teams' lack of stomach on the road. Castres made eight changes from the starting line-up beaten 20-16 in France last Friday - six in the pack - and soon went 3-0 behind to the first of three penalties from the excellent Charlie Hodgson.

But there was undeniably a contest to watch throughout the first half as the full-back Roman Teulet brought Castes briefly level and they did not concede a try until Roumieu's costly sin-binning. But Sale were always on top even if they only really clicked once in the first half, when their England wings past and present, Robinson and Cueto, combined slickly down the middle to set up the position for Hodgson's third penalty.

Shortly after that Cueto pulled up lame. It looked worryingly like a hamstring - bad timing with Sale facing three important Premiership matches in 14 days after Christmas - but Saint-André did not seem too worried later, reflecting that a win against Northampton on Boxing Day would complete "a great year".

Sale Sharks: Larrechea; Cueto (Mayor, 35), Taylor (Todd, 60), Seveali'I, Robinson; Hodgson, Martens (Coutts, 53); Sheridan, Bruno (Titterell, 64), Turner (Stewart, 64), Jones, Schofield (Fernandez-Lobbe, 53), White, Lund, Chabal.

Sub not used: Courrent.

Tries: Chabal 2, Robinson, Todd. Pens: Hodgson 3. Cons: Hodgson 3.

Castres: Teulet; Milford, Raffault, Christophers, Ropati; Delaigue, Albouy; Forestier (Hoeft, 20), Roumieu (Vigneaux, 47), Attoub (Castex, 47), Ghezal, Capo Ortega, Froment, Bernad, Taussac.

Subs: Nallet, Puricelli, Fior, Montoro.

Sin bin: Roumieu (40).

Pen: Teulet.

Referee: M Changleng (Scotland).
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