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Toulon bounce back to defeat Sale in Champions Cup

Published 21/10/2016

Leigh Halfpenny helped Toulon secure a 15-5 win over Sale on Friday night
Leigh Halfpenny helped Toulon secure a 15-5 win over Sale on Friday night

French giants Toulon inflicted a 13th straight top-flight European defeat on Sale Sharks, winning 15-5 at the AJ Bell Stadium in the Champions Cup.

Toulon, European kings in 2013, 2014 and 2015, responded well to last weekend's loss to reigning champions Saracens when they relinquished their unbeaten home record in the Champions Cup.

Sale, beaten by Scarlets on the opening weekend, battled bravely but were not able to recover from going 15-0 down in the first 11 minutes.

Toulon roared ahead as tries from Charles Ollivon and Leigh Halfpenny made the most of a man advantage after Magnus Lund was sin-binned.

Paolo Odogwu pulled a try back on 32 minutes when Sale had a man over with Toulon captain Duane Vermeulen yellow-carded, but the Sharks trailed 15-5 at the break.

Odogwu was one of the seven Sale players who got stuck in a lift last weekend, the footage of which has been an internet sensation this week.

His score gave the Sharks the initial lift they needed but, despite a period of intense second-half pressure, the score remained the same.

The teams had met just twice before, in the 2012/13 European Cup pool stage, with the Top 14 side coming out on top in both games. Toulon's 62-0 win in the second is their biggest in the competition as well as Sale's heaviest defeat in the tournament.

A minute's silence for Munster head coach Anthony Foley, whose funeral took place earlier on Friday, was impeccably observed just ahead of kick-off.

Sale suffered an early blow when recalled flanker Lund was sin-binned for a late, no arms, tackle on Juan Fernandez Lobbe, who had just turned his back after passing. Halfpenny put Toulon 3-0 up with the resulting penalty from a central position, albeit via the left upright.

The visitors made their man advantage count with tries from flanker Ollivon, who barged over all to easily in a central position, and Halfpenny, who went over in the left corner after a cross-field kick. The full-back converted the first score but was narrowly wide with the second.

The Sharks resisted another attack and then gained a man advantage when Vermeulen was yellow-carded for tripping Sam James after the fly-half kicked through.

Sale's impetus grew and they pulled a try back when wing Odogwu raced over in the left corner. Will Addison missed the conversion.

The hosts threatened again before the break yet without adding to that try.

Sale resisted early second-half pressure but struggled to get out of their territory. They were fortunate that the normally reliable Halfpenny was wide with a penalty attempt from distance.

When they finally entered Toulon's half, Addison squandered a straightforward penalty, his kick coming back off the right post.

The stadium announcer repeatedly tried to get a larger-than-normal crowd of 9,402 behind the hosts and it seemed to do the trick as they enjoyed a period of concerted pressure.

Sale kicked three penalties to the corner but each time failed to register a score as Toulon's defence proved too strong.

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