Heineken Cup: Cipriani brings bite to Sharks attack as Sale overturn deficit
Danny Cipriani was delighted with his crucial cameo role in Sale’s thrilling opening 34-33 Heineken Cup win over Cardiff yesterday, and now the England fly-half is hoping he has done enough to start his next match.
The Sharks were staring at a seventh consecutive defeat when they trailed 27-12 to the Blues at the City of Salford Stadium, but the introduction of Cipriani after 49 minutes sparked a dramatic transformation.
Cipriani scored one try and helped create another for debutant winger Mark Jennings to bring Sale right back into contention.
And after Cardiff replacement Lewis Jones was sin-binned with seven minutes to go, they struck the winning blow through prop Tony Buckley.
“It’s something we’ve been longing for,” said Cipriani, who joined the Sharks from Melbourne Rebels in the summer. “I enjoyed it. It was good fun. I think the boys were playing pretty well before I came on, so it was seamless to fit in there.”
Sale director of rugby Bryan Redpath was thrilled with the impact made by his club’s high-profile recruit. “It was great to see him perform like that and hopefully it will give us a huge confidence boost,” he said. “Hopefully Danny and the team can kick on from that.
“His attacking flair has never been in question, but he had three great kicks for field position and he made his tackles when he needed to, and that was just as important.”
After making their worst-ever start to a Premiership campaign, Redpath admitted the nerve-tingling victory came as a “huge relief”.
“We’ve been on the wrong end of these results,” he said. “We created two great chances in the first 25 minutes but in the next 15 minutes we conceded three soft tries, and suddenly we’re thinking deja vu.
“I said to the players at half-time we were staring down the barrel of a gun. We had to go out with the right mindset to win the game.”
Two-time Heineken Cup champions Leicester lost 23-9 in their opening Pool 2 match against Toulouse in the south of France.
The Tigers were only 11-9 behind at the break but the kicking prowess of Luke McAlister won the day for the home side with his boot accounting for 18 points, with centre Gael Fickou’s first-half try the only one of the game.
On Saturday, Harlequins overcame the early loss of Nick Evans to make a triumphant start to their Heineken Cup campaign with a stand-out 40-13 humbling of Biarritz.
Evans, the Aviva Premiership champions’ ringmaster, limped off after just 17 minutes, but his replacement, Ben Botica proved a highly-capable deputy in a bonus-point victory at Twickenham Stoop.
Botica, who joined Quins this season and is the son of rugby league great Frano, kicked 18 points and showed a promising level of composure
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