Heineken Champions Cup: No English side remains in European Rugby top tier competition after Sale defeated 41-22 by Racing 92
Sale were defeated 41-22 by Racing 92 in Paris, Nolann La Garrec punishing the Sharks with his boot; Sale were the final English side remaining in the top flight of European Rugby; Racing 92 will now face La Rochelle in the semi-final
Last Updated: 08/05/22 8:03pm
Sale bowed out of the Heineken Champions Cup following a 41-22 quarter-final defeat to Racing 92 in Paris.
English representation in the top tier of European rugby union is over for another season after Leicester also lost this weekend to Leinster.
Racing will now play last season's beaten finalists La Rochelle in the semi-finals next weekend in Lens, with Leinster securing a last-four clash with Toulouse, who beat Munster via a penalty shootout in a Dublin epic earlier in the day.
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Teddy Thomas, Finn Russell, Juan Imhoff and Max Spring scored Racing's tries with Nolann Le Garrec and Maxime Machenaud kicking 21 points between them.
Sale scored three tries of their own courtesy of Manu Tuilagi, Akker van der Merwe and Ben Curry, with Rob du Preez kicking seven points. Racing built an early 6-9 lead, with Le Garrec's boot punishing Sale's ill-discipline.
However, Sale were the better side in the first half with their scrum and carrying game causing Racing a lot of problems, and they snatched the lead on the stroke of half-time through Tuilagi, who picked up a loose ball before gliding past three Racing defenders to touch down under the posts, with Du Preez - who had earlier slotted over a penalty - adding the extras to give Sale a 10-6 advantage at the interval.
Racing retook the lead immediately after half-time though with an outrageously skilful try, Scotland's playmaker Russell finding Thomas on the right-hand touchline with a crossfield kick before the winger kicked through then won a footrace to ground the ball, Le Garrec converting from the touchline.
The momentum had swung in the home side's favour, and they raced ahead when Russell volleyed a loose ball downfield before chasing it down, with a favourable bounce allowing him to regather the ball to score.
The Sharks then made it a one-score game again when former Springboks hooker Van der Merwe powered over from short range but the result was put beyond doubt following a tremendous break from Le Garrec, with the scrum-half offloading to Spring who put Imhoff over a try which began in the Racing 22.
Sale grabbed a late try when Curry forced his way over the line, but there was to be no miracle comeback.
'Salary cap makes it hard for English clubs to compete'
Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson insists the drop in the Premiership salary cap makes it difficult for English clubs to compete with star-studded French sides in Europe.
The Premiership salary cap is now £5m, which is significantly less than the spend of some of the English clubs' European rivals, but Sanderson believes they must try to bridge the gap through good coaching and building a strong infrastructure.
"Yes of course it does because you don't have the money to sign the quality of players needed," said Sanderson when asked if the salary cap prevents English clubs competing with French sides.
"There's been a difference in the salary cap forever between the French and English clubs. When Toulon used to have a £20m salary cap and the English clubs were on £5-6m and yet they managed to win.
"You can make up the gap in the salary cap through really good coaching, decent infrastructure, and culture as well. You can bridge the gap through talent through cohesion and decent coaching."