Rampant Sale hammer Scarlets to reach first Champions Cup quarter-final since 2006
Scarlets (0) 14
Tries: Owens, Morgan Cons: Halfpenny 2
Sale (23) 57
Tries: A van der Merwe 2, MacGinty, Yarde, Beaumont, Quirke Cons: MacGinty 6 Pens: MacGinty 5
Sale booked a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final trip to face La Rochelle with a thumping victory against a woeful Scarlets side.
Two tries from hooker Akker van der Merwe and AJ MacGinty’s boot built up a 23-point first-half lead.
MacGinty scored a second-half try to finish with a record 32-point haul, with further tries from Marland Yarde, Josh Beaumont and Raffi Quirke.
Scarlets could only reply with tries from Ken Owens and Jac Morgan.
Sale booked their first Champions Cup quarter-final since 2006 – when the tournament was known just as the Heineken Cup – as they ensured there were two English sides in the last eight by joining Exeter.
Irish province Leinster and five French clubs sides – La Rochelle, Toulouse, Clermont, Racing 92 and Bordeaux Begles – complete the line-up next weekend.
La Rochelle v Sale Sharks
Clermont Auvergne v Toulouse
Bordeaux-Begles v Racing 92
Exeter Chiefs v Leinster
All kick-off times and dates are to be confirmed
Sale are well-placed in third in the Premiership but had qualified for the Champions Cup last 16 despite having not won a game, with pool defeats against Toulon and Edinburgh.
South Africa World Cup-winning scrum-half Faf de Klerk and England flanker Tom Curry proved influential in the victory, which was achieved without missing Springbok second row Lood de Jager.
The Scarlets’ defeat completed a disastrous weekend for the four Welsh regions, with no side reaching the quarter-finals of either European tournament.
Dragons, Cardiff Blues and Ospreys lost in the European Challenge Cup with the quartet of defeats coming against English club sides.
The other Welsh losses had been close affairs. This was anything but as Scarlets were humbled and humiliated at their ground, the Welsh side convincingly losing the physical and breakdown battles.
The drubbing occurred despite Scarlets having Wales’ Six Nations-winning players – Owens, Johnny Williams, Liam Williams, Leigh Halfpenny, Gareth Davies, Wyn Jones and Jake Ball – back in the starting side.
Scarlets set out their stall with a stuttering start courtesy of a knock-on from the kick-off from Sione Kalamafoni and a scrum penalty conceded by Wyn Jones, allowing MacGinty to open the scoring.
Scarlets’ line-out then malfunctioned, with the throw going over the top and Sale hooker Van der Merwe powering through an attempted Gareth Davies tackle and diving over. MacGinty converted before slotting over a second penalty.
Sale were denied a second try after centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg failed to ground the ball, but it only delayed the inevitable when Van der Merwe was driven over for his second.
Stunned Scarlets lost Wales centre Johnny Williams to a shoulder injury, although he was replaced by British and Irish Lion Jonathan Davies.
MacGinty’s third penalty extended the lead as Sale continued to outmuscle and almost bully their opponents, taking a 23-0 interval lead.
The Scarlets nightmare continued after the break when a loose pass from Dan Jones was capitalised on by opposite number MacGinty, who dribbled over to score.
Scarlets finally responded with an Owens try from a driving line-out with Halfpenny converting, but it only temporarily halted the Sale procession.