Ripol scores hat-trick as Sale send Leeds crashing

Sale 45 Leeds 10
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The Independent Online

It was their sixth consecutive loss of what is turning into a horror season and means the Tykes cannot qualify for the semi-finals. Sale will probably need to beat Llanelli at Stradey Park in December to reach that mark, but they are playing with such self-belief that nothing appears beyond them.

After their heavy defeat at Newcastle last Sunday, Sale fielded a near full-strength team but were without Charlie Hodgson, Mark Cueto, Chris Jones and Andrew Sheridan, all of whom were in this week's England training camp. Leeds have an injury crisis and were missing Iain Balshaw, Tom Palmer, Stuart Hooper, Chris Bell and Jon Dunbar of their first-choice side, though Mike Shelley, Dan Hyde and Andre Snyman all returned after various ailments.

For Leeds, there was plenty of pain to come as Sebastien Chabal set up the position for Robert Todd to barge over for a well-worked try as early as the fourth minute. Leeds raised themselves briefly, but Gordon Ross's penalty rebounded off the right upright. The Tykes' resurgence did not last long as their defence went walkabout for Oriol Ripol to cut through what remained of it for a try.

Although Sale's pick-and-drive game was vastly superior to anything offered by Leeds, Ross eschewed another shot at goal from a penalty, opting instead for a line-out from which Danny Care dummied his way over for a try. Ross converted.

Apart from a penalty in first-half stoppage time by Ross, it was all Sale. Magnus Lund took a line-out, Leeds were anticipating a drive, instead Lionel Faure crossed unopposed. A mesmerising run by Jason Robinson was finished off by Ripol and, with three conversions by Courrent, Sale led 26-10 at the break, with a bonus point secured.

Within three minutes of the restart, Sebastien Bruno touched down, Courrent converted and Leeds were sunk. Sale maintained the momentum, for Ripol to complete his hat-trick and Steve Hanley to touch down. But Leeds, dear oh dear, what a shambles.

Sale: Tries Todd, Ripol 3, Faure, Bruno, Hanley Conversions Courrent 5. Leeds: Tries Care Conversion Ross Penalty Ross

Sale: J Robinson (capt); O Ripol (B Foden 77), M Taylor (E Seveali'i 62), R Todd, S Hanley; V Courrent, S Martens (R Wigglesworth 62); L Faure (B Coutts 35), S Bruno (A Titterrell 68), S Turner, I Fernandez Lobbe, C Day N Bonner Evans 66), J Carter (J White h-t), M Lund, S Chabal.

Leeds: D Doherty (D Rees 71); D Rees (T Stimpson 62), A Snyman, C Jones, T Biggs; G Ross, D Care; M Shelley (capt; R Rawlinson 56; R Gerber 62), G Bulloch (Rawlinson 62), G Kerr, C Murphy (K Myall 76), S Morgan, N Thomas, D Hyde (R Parks 62), J Crane.

Referee: M Fox (Leicestershire).