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Sale thump Clermont, Stade Français storm Ulster

Latest update : 2008-10-11

The opening game of the European Cup saw Sale cruise to a comfortable 32-15 victory over France's Clermont (32-15), while Paris side Stade Français returned from Ravenhill with an impressive 26-10 win over Ulster.

All Black Luke McAlister turned in a magnificent man-of-the-match performance to spur Sale to an impressive 32-15 European Cup win over perennial French underachievers Clermont on Saturday.

French woes were assuaged, however, as unbeaten Top 14 leaders Stade Francais beat Ulster 26-10 on a day when Cardiff, Newport-Gwent Dragons, Harlequins and Leinster all won. Gloucester host Biarritz in the late game.

McAlister scored a try, three penalties and two conversions and was instrumental in three of Sale's four tries as the English club, coached by Frenchman Philippe Saint-Andre, demolished a timid-looking Clermont.

"When we had the ball we tried to attack and be adventurous and I'm very proud of my team after seeing them put on their best performance in Europe and the best I've seen since we won the Premiership final," said Saint-Andre, whose team host reigning European champions Munster on October 19.

Sale opened the scoring when Dwayne Peel, looking sharp at scrum-half, made a searing break up the middle of the park, linked up with fast-advancing captain JM Fernandez Lobbe who jinked the cover and offloaded to David Doherty, the winger crossing in the corner.

Brock James kept Clermont - who have only once advanced from the Cup group stages, in 2001/2 - in the game with three penalties, but McAlister sparked Sale's revival.

Scottish fullback Rory Lamont bounced off a weak tackle and accelerated away to feed a looping McAlister for a great opportunistic try.

James notched up two more penalties but Sale wrapped up the game and a bonus point with two late tries.

First Clermont fullback Anthony Floch was turned over, McAlister drew the final man and fed replacement back Rudi Keil for an easy run-in.

Then McAlister played Lamont into the gap and the when the Scot was hauled down he offloaded perfectly for winger Mark Cueto to score.

In Scotland, Australian flanker Rocky Elsom made a try-scoring European debut for Leinster in a 27-16 win over Edinburgh.

In the 18th minute, Girvan Dempsey turned over an Edinburgh player, Elsom pounced on a loose ball, sold a dummy and sprinted in unfettered from 35 metres.

Brian O'Driscoll, Felipe Contepomi and Shane Horgan then scored in close succession, with the Edinburgh midfield woeful in defence.

Contepomi turned from hero to villain when he was sin-binned early in the second-half, conceding a penalty try but the Scottish side were never in the running.

"To concede four tries as we did and in the manner they were conceded is unacceptable - and I've explained that to the players," Edinburgh coach Andy Robinson said.

"Rugby's a tough sport but every single player has got to be able to make their tackles and today we dropped off tackles."

In their 26-10 win over Ulster, Stade Francais scored two tries through Guillaume Bousses and hooker Dimitri Szarzewski as well as three drop-goals, two from the outstanding Juan Martin Hernandez and one from Lionel Beauxis.

Slow-starting Ulster finally got on the board in the 48th minute with a penalty from No 10 Niall O'Connor and rallied well, Paddy Wallace scoring a late consolation try.

Cardiff Blues recorded a resounding bonus-point 56-20 victory over Calvisano, the Welsh side rattling up eight tries to two after being held to 18-13 at half-time.

In the same Pool Six, Olly Barkley kicked Gloucester to an unconvincing 22-10 victory over Biarritz. England international Barkley landed four penalties and a conversion of James Simpson-Daniel's 39th-minute try.

Newport-Gwent Dragons scored a morale-boosting 32-22 victory over Glasgow but Scarlets, last season's whipping boys, went down 29-22 to Harlequins.

Date created : 2008-10-11