It may not have been pretty but as has often been the case throughout his career, Leigh Halfpenny was to be the difference on Friday night as Toulon overcome a resilient Sale Sharks in the European Champions Cup.
Toulon were once again not at their best at the AJ Bell Stadium but their blistering start, which included ten points and a try for 2009 and 2013 British & Irish Lion Halfpenny, was enough to secure the three-time champion’s first points of the campaign.
The French side’s European reign was ended last season and they have yet to recapture their best form this season, having lost 31-23 to Saracens in the opening weekend.
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But the star-studded side from the south of France came out of the blocks quickly on Friday night and when Sale’s Magnus Lund was sin-binned after five minutes, Halfpenny slotted the subsequent penalty and it wasn’t long until Charles Ollivon bundled over.
Wales full-back Halfpenny, who was Man of the Series when The British & Irish Lions won 2-1 in Australia in 2013, added the extras and when Sale were unable to gather a cross-field kick on 11 minutes, the 27-year-old supported Bryan Habana in attack and reaped the rewards with a try in the corner.
Sale wouldn’t give up though and there were several impressive showings from the likes of centre Will Addison, wing Paulo Odogwu and veteran scrum-half Peter Stringer, who started the contest just hours after attending the funeral of his good friend and Munster legend Anthony Foley.
Tough game today beaten by a big clinical Toulon team. Huge amount to take from the experience for next week…@stringer9 inspirational .
— Will Addison (@WillAddisonB3) October 21, 2016
And on the half-hour mark, 19-year-old Odogwu continued his impressive start to the season with a try in the corner while Toulon captain Duane Vermeulen was in the sin bin.
Sale searched for a way back into the contest in the second half and showed plenty of fight but Steve Diamond’s men couldn’t convert their pressure into points.