Munster in full Sale, Clermont fight back
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Title holders Munster rocked a solid Sale side in a ruthless display Sunday, while France's Clermont washed away memories of their home thumping by Sale last week with a much-needed win over Montauban (photo).
Reigning champions Munster displayed their European Cup pedigree with an impressive 24-16 second round Pool 1 victory over a strong Sale side on Sunday.
In other games, Bath beat Newport-Gwent Dragons 13-9 in Pool 5, Cardiff Blues beat Gloucester 37-24 in Pool 6, while Montauban went down 24-19 to Clermont in an all-French Pool 1 clash.
Munster, bursting with Ireland internationals, were effectively marshalled by veteran outside-half Ronan O'Gara and outplayed the home side around the fringes.
"We need to be focusing on the two games against Montauban now and, if we win those two matches, we will have a quarter-final shoot-out with Munster at Thomond Park," said Sale coach Philippe Saint Andre.
"Munster showed us how to win a game today. They were clever and crafty and did to us what we did to Clermont last week.
"It was a good, high level game in which Munster punished us for our mistakes. They really were more clinical than us and really made us pay.
"We are very disappointed, but Munster deserved their victory. They came to do a job and that is exactly what they did."
Sale's All Black centre Luke McAlister and O'Gara traded early penalties, the latter also instrumental in Munster's first try.
The Ireland No 10 drew the midfield defence by holding up his pass to flanker Alan Quinlan who delicately offloaded to full-back Paul Warwick for an easy run-in.
O'Gara hit the extras and shortly after Warwick added an opportunist 40-metre drop-goal.
McAlister, whose deft touches marked any Sale attacks, nailed a second long-range penalty to make it 13-6 at half-time.
O'Gara hit an easy penalty at the start of the second period but McAlister responded to bring the home side back to within a converted try.
Sale, showing more shape and verve after the introduction of Charlie Hodgson, duly pulled level at 16 points apiece after replacement lock Dean Schofield touched down under the posts after hooker Marc Jones broke the line, McAlister hitting the conversion.
But with 15 minutes remaining, Munster No 8 David Wallace crashed over for a try with the Sale defence in disarray.
The drama was not over, however, Munster's Kiwi centre Lifeimi Maki sin-binned in the 72nd minute for using a high, swinging arm on Mathew Tait.
But McAlister dragged the resulting penalty wide and O'Gara had the last word when he hit a 45-metre drop-goal to ensure Sale did not even get a bonus point for a losing margin of seven points.
In the same pool, Clermont made up for their disappointing loss to Sale last weekend with a nail-biting 24-19 win over Montauban, scoring tries through Alexandre Audebert and Napolioni Vonowale Nalaga (2).
At the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff Blues raced out to a 10-0 lead, thanks to a well-taken try by teenage winger Leigh Halfpenny and five points from the boot of Kiwi full-back Ben Blair.
Olly Barkley and Blair traded penalties before Olly Morgan crashed through for Gloucester's first try. Ian Balshaw crossed on the half-hour after a forward shunt had Cardiff at sixes and sevens.
The Blues, who now have back-to-back matches against Biarritz, hit back with quickfire tries from Halfpenny and Gareth Thomas for a 27-24 half-time lead.
Balshaw bagged his second 10 minutes into the second period but Nicky Robinson responded for the hosts for a bonus-point win.
"It was a great result," said Cardiff No 8 Andy Powell. "We targeted this game today.
"At one stage, it could have gone either way but the boys stuck at it."
In Bath, winger Andrew Higgins came off the bench to rescue the home side's campaign with a 67th-minute try that finally broke the Newport-Gwent Dragon's resistance and sealed a 13-9 win for his side.
Two Butch James penalties kept Bath's noses in front throughout the first half but even after Higgins' try, converted by Butch James, the Welsh side came back with two penalties from Shaun Connor to claim a precious bonus point.
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