Match report: Sharks power into Challenge Cup semi-finals
April 4, 2008
Sale Sharks set up a European Challenge Cup semi-final clash against Premiership rivals Bath or Leeds Carnegie with a 49-24 thumping of Brive at Edgeley Park.
Luke McAlister proved an able understudy to Charlie Hodgson with a commanding display to help usher Sale into the European Challenge Cup semi-finals.
McAlister, the former All Black star, was handed the number 10 jersey with Hodgson on the bench following the birth of his first child.
He provided Sale with significant attacking impetus in a comfortable six-try victory and dovetailed effectively with England scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth.
Sale will now face a semi-final trip to either Bath or Leeds on April 26 and winning the competition will secure them a place in next season's Heineken Cup.
That McAlister has not always lived up to his reputation since arriving at Edgeley Park on a lucrative two-year contract after last year's World Cup is undeniable.
Even here his tactical kicking game was up not to Hodgson's lofty standards, but he still landed 19 points with the boot and provided a delightful crossfield kick which allowed Lee Thomas to touch down in the first half.
McAlister spent part of his childhood in Oldham, where his father Charlie was a legend at the town's rugby league club, and played in the junior ranks at Manchester United.
But it was his handling skills which helped guide Sale around the field to open up a 21-12 advantage with tries from Sebastien Chabal and Thomas.
The Sharks added further scores after the restart through Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (two), Will Cliff's first try for the club and a penalty try which McAlister converted.
Brive proved spirit opponents but Sale were simply too strong and after McAlister's third-minute penalty got them off the mark, Chabal forced his way over from a scrum.
McAlister added the extras and a penalty before flighting a superb cross into the right corner which Thomas touched down.
He failed to convert and Brive hit back when Farid Sid went over and Maxime Petitjean added the extras.
McAlister added another penalty but Sale were caught napping again on the stroke of half-time when Vickus Liebenberg barged Oriol Ripol out the way to touch down in the right corner.
Petitjean could not convert but a 21-12 deficit at least kept the Frenchmen in contention.
That changed shortly after the restart as Lobbe claimed two tries in quick succession and although Brive crossed again through Jean-Philippe Bonrepaux, Cliff came off the bench to add a fifth touchdown for Sale.
McAlister converted a 71st-minute penalty try for Sale but Brive had the final say when Liebenberg claimed his second for a score which Petitjean converted.
Sale (21) 49.
Brive (12) 24.
Sale: Foden, Cueto, Bell, Thomas, Ripol, McAlister, Wigglesworth, Sheridan, Bruno, Roberts, Schofield, Cox, White,
Replacements: Lawson, Sigley, C. Fernandez Lobbe, J. Fernandez Lobbe, Cliff, Hodgson, Laharrague.
Brive: Palisson, Sid, Estebanez, Cooke, Boleavucu, Petitjean, Mahe, Harbut, Bonrepaux, Bordoy, Van Zyl, Liebenberg,
Replacements: Djoudi, Domingo, Forgues, Neveu, Orquera, Ligairi, Buys.
Referee: T Hayes (Wales)