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Scarlets cruise to opening win against Sale

Jake Ball and Mike Phillips

Jake Ball on the charge for Scarlets as fellow Wales international Mike Phillips comes across to tackle him

Scarlets got off to a winning start in the Champions Cup with a 28-11 victory over Sale Sharks at Parc y Scarlets.

Wales scrum-half Gareth Davies and Canada wing DTH van der Merwe scored first-half tries but Van der Merwe’s second was the only score of a poor second period.

Rhys Patchell’s 13 points with the boot helped the Scarlets keep control.

Hooker Neil Briggs got the visitors’ only try in the first period with Dan Mugford landing two penalties.

In a tough group also featuring Toulon and Saracens, the Scarlets overcame memories of a Champions Cup whitewash in 2015-16.

International class

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Liam Williams looks for an opening but is stopped by Sam James and Byron McGuigan

Mugford kicked Sale into a third-minute lead, but Scarlets responded with 16 unanswered points.

Davies charged down Mugford’s attempted clearance and gathered to score, Patchell converting and kicking three penalties.

The Scarlets’ line-out problems were costing them valuable ground, but Sale had no such trouble as Briggs was driven over after 25 minutes.

However. it came as no surprise when the hosts extended their lead following more excellent work from Wales number nine Davies, Patchell’s cross-kick perfectly judged for Van der Merwe to collect and score with Patchell converting.

A Mugford penalty made it 21-11 at the break, but neither side could take a firm grip on the second half.

Van der Merwe’s second try on 56 minutes was the only score of the second half as he skated round the outside to finish well from close quarters, Patchell converting from wide out.

But a series of other chances went begging and the Scarlets could not add the fourth try for a bonus point.

Any hopes the visitors had of a second-half comeback were frustrated by yellow cards to forwards Ross Harrison and Andrei Ostrikov for illegal tackles.

Round two sees Sale host Toulon on Friday 21 October while Scarlets travel to Allianz Park to play Saracens on Saturday 22 October.

Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac told BBC Wales Sport:

“Very pleased with getting a result, it was pretty important to us after last year’s Champions Cup, so the win was important.

“We were going for the bonus point at the end but it’s just satisfying to get the win and the way we got it was an improved performance [from what we’ve delivered in]the Pro12.

“The area we’ve got to make sure we’re more clinical in for next week is when we get penalties and go to the corner, we’ve got to nail the line-out, and then we missed one kick to the corner.

“Next week we may only get two or three opportunities in the game against a class side like Saracens and we’re going to have to take them.”

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond:

“What we couldn’t maintain was field position, we got there first half and managed to come away with points on three occasions, but we couldn’t get there consistently second half.

“I thought we were unlucky with the yellow cards but overall no complaints, they were better than us tonight.

“We build for Toulon next week, it’ll be a celebration with eight or nine thousand tickets sold and hopefully we can give them a run for their money.”

Man of the match: Scott Williams (Scarlets)

Scarlets: Liam Williams; DTH van der Merwe, Jonathan Davies, Scott Williams, Steff Evans; Rhys Patchell, Gareth Davies; Wyn Jones, Ken Owens (capt), Samson Lee, Jake Ball, David Bulbring, Aaron Shingler, James Davies, John Barclay.

Replacements: Ryan Elias, Luke Garrett, Werner Kruger, Lewis Rawlins, Will Boyde, Jonathan Evans, Dan Jones, Hadleigh Parkes.

Sale Sharks: Mike Haley; Byron McGuigan, Will Addison, Sam James, Paolo Odogwu; Dan Mugford, Mike Phillips; Ross Harrison, Neil Briggs, Brian Mujati, Bryn Evans, Jonathan Mills, Cameron Neild, David Seymour, Josh Beaumont (capt).

Replacements: James Flynn, Halani Aulika, Andrei Ostrikov, Magnus Lund, Tom Curry, James Mitchell, Sam Bedlow, Nev Edwards.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/rugby-union/37617535