A superb first-half performance by the Cardiff Blues earned them a bonus-point victory in the opening match of this season's EDF Energy Cup. With Wales international Gareth Thomas in scintillating form on his first full appearance for the Blues, the Sharks were left shell-shocked, and even a much-improved display after the break did not seriously threaten home dominance.
The Blues will need to repeat this sort of form if they are to qualify for the semi-finals with away games to come at Bath and Leicester. They took the lead when lock Deiniol Jones pounced on a loose ball and fed Jason Spice, who stretched and twisted to touch down.
Sale came close when Rory Lamont was just unable to reach a kick before it crossed the deadball line, but the referee, Dave Pearson, was playing advantage and Lee Thomas slotted over the penalty.
That was the cue for the other Thomas. First he scythed through to go under the posts for Nicky Robinson to convert, before some fine interpassing with the wing Jamie Roberts saw the Wales captain cross.
Thoroughly relishing his return after six years away, Thomas then sold an outrageous dummy to begin a move which saw Xavier Rush touch down. Robinson converted and home fans were celebrating a bonus point before half-time.
"He was playing at 12, his favourite position, and he showed what he brings to this club," Cardiff coach Dai Young said of Thomas's performance. "We don't want to throw in a load of kids, we need old heads like 'Alfie' to help the youngsters."
The Sharks reappeared with renewed determination and had a boost when home flanker Maama Molitika was sin-binned for using his hands in a ruck.
Some robust home defence enabled the Blues to survive their period with 14 men, but Sale eventually had their reward when the tireless Julien Laharrague sent Lee Thomas in for a try.
The Blues, making a string of changes, lost momentum, while Sale, having no doubt received a tongue-lashing in the interval, controlled possession but were rarely able to breach the Welsh defence. The visitors thrilled their supporters with a length-of-the-field move ending with a fine try for Lamont.
But there was still time for the Blues wing Tom James to cross.
Sale head coach Kingsley Jones was pleased with the way his side responded in the second half. He said: "There were harsh things said at half-time, particularly about our defence. But, let's face it, Cardiff had won it by them and took their foot off the gas."
Cardiff Blues: Tries Spice, G Thomas 2, Rush, James; Conversions N Robinson 2; Penalties N Robinson. Sale: Tries L Thomas, Lamont; Conversions L Thomas; Penalties L Thomas.
Cardiff: Blair; James, Shanklin (Macleod, 51), G Thomas, J Roberts; N Robinson, Spice (Rees, 53); Jenkins (Yapp, 63), R Thomas (G Williams, 70), G Powell, Jones (White, 70), Tito (Sidoli, 63), Molitika, Sowden-Taylor, Rush.
Sale: Laharrague; Lamont, Keil (Mayor, 41), Thomas, Ripol (Hanley, 75); Hodgson, Martens (Wigglesworth, 51); Faure, Bruno, Bourrust (Evans, 51), Schofield (Hills, 58), Cox, C Jones (Day, 35), Lund (Briggs, 60), Bonner-Evans.
Referee: D Pearson (RFU).Reuse content