|Champions Cup Pool Two:|
|La Rochelle (15) 30|
|Tries: Railevu, Kerr-Barlow, Doumayrou, Alldritt Cons: West 2 Pens: West 2|
|Sale: (16) 23|
|Tries: JL du Preez, Langdon Cons: MacGinty, Williams Pens: MacGinty 2, Williams|
Sale’s hopes of making the Champions Cup last eight ended as they finished with 14 men in defeat to La Rochelle.
Sale took an 10-point lead via Jean-Luc du Preez’s try, but it disappeared as Tevita Railevu and Tawera Kerr-Barlow crossed in a three-minute spell.
James Williams’ kick gave Sale a one-point advantage at the break.
However, Geoffrey Doumayrou and Gregory Alldritt darted in and Valery Morozov saw red as Sale’s late rally, sparked by Curtis Langdon’s score, fell short.
The match ended with Sale camped in the hosts’ 22m in search of a game-tying converted try, but ultimately coach Steve Diamond will reflect on the moments of indiscipline that squandered a promising position in the Bay of Biscay.
Sale had sapped some of the energy from the Stade Marcel Deflandre as brothers Daniel and Jean-Luc du Preez combined to send the latter over from close range with eight minutes on the clock.
MacGinty added a conversion and a penalty but the visitors were swiftly reeled in as former All Black Kerr-Barlow showed his class.
The New Zealander’s clever cross kick to Levani Botia made the most of a promising breakaway, opening up the space for Railevu to saunter in.
Shortly after he gambled successfully in defence, rushing up to poach opposite number Will Cliff’s pass as Sale attempted to spread play wide with a pre-arranged wraparound move.
Kerr-Barlow was again instrumental as La Rochelle seized the lead after the break, dummying and darting from the base to open the way to the line for Doumayrou.
When Chris Ashton was shown yellow for body-checking the livewire nine and Ihaia West potted the subsequent penalty to open up a 25-16 lead on 64 minutes, things looked ominous for Sale.
And the result was effectively sealed as replacement forward Morozov was shown red as he reacted to Lopeti Timani’s neck roll by barging his shoulder into the Australian’s face two minutes later.
It was the second stormy contest between the sides after Pierre Bourgarit was sent off for eye-gouging Tom Curry in Sale’s win sent off for eye-gouging Tom Curry at the AJ Bell Stadium in November.
Alldritt bundled over in the corner and the home side had only their own complacency to blame for a period of unwanted late drama.
Replacement Langdon’s 79th-minute short-range try cut the gap to seven points to bring up a losing bonus and for a brief moment, with the clock in the red, Sale threatened to salvage a draw.
La Rochelle: Sinzelle; Railevu, Doumayrou, Botia, Retiere; West, Kerr-Barlow; Wardi, Bourgarit, Puafisi, Lavault, Leroux, Gourdon (cap), Liebenberg, Alldritt.
Replacements: James for Doumayrou (68), Murimurivalu for Retiere (67), Berjon for Kerr Barlow (64), Corbel for Wardi (64), Lebrun for Bourgarit (51), Atonio for Puafisi (51), Timani for Leroux (61), Kieft for Alldritt (75).
Sin Bin: Gourdon (13), Timani (65).
Sale: L James; Roebuck, S James, Williams, Yarde; MacGinty, Cliff; Harrison, Webber, Cooper-Wooley, Postlethwaite, Phillips, JL Du Preez, B Curry, D Du Preez.
Replacements: Warr for Cliff (75), Morozov for Harrison (64), Langdon for Webber (64), Ford for Cooper-Woolley (80), Neild for Phillips (64), Dugdale for du Preez (72).
Not Used: Carpenter, Ashton.
Sin Bin: Ashton (63).
Sent Off: Morozov (65).
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