Cardiff edge titanic battle against Sale 28-27
Cardiff secured a place in the last eight of the Challenge Cup with a dramatic 28-27 victory over the Sale Sharks.
On a night when Cardiff paid tribute to former chairman Peter Thomas, who passed away earlier this week, they put in arguably their best performance of the season as they edged out a strong Sale Sharks side.
The hosts surged into a 25-10 lead before Sale launched a concerted comeback, which was finally repulsed by a late Jarrod Evans penalty.
The one-point margin was a fitting reflection of two evenly matched sides, who pushed each other to the limit at Cardiff Arms Park.
Akker van der Merwe bustled over for the first try as Sharks took the early initiative, with George Ford’s conversion and a long-range kick putting the English outfit 10-3 in front.
Cardiff’s response was emphatic, Corey Domachowski getting over the line before winger Josh Adams finished two fine attacking moves.
Ford’s boot and a score from Ewan Ashman put Sale back in front by two points, but Evans slotted between the posts in the 71st minute to steal the victory.
Sale threw everything they had at the home side in the closing minutes, with one excellent turnover from James Botham getting his side out of trouble, as Cardiff held on for a famous and emotional victory at the Arms Park.
Elsewhere, Johnny Matthews ran in five tries as Glasgow hammered Dragons 73-33 at Scotstoun Stadium.
The hooker was in irrepressible form as he touched down four times in the first half and returned for one more at the start of the second.
Dragons were hamstrung after just over half-an-hour’s play when Aki Seiuli’s high tackle earned him a red card and gave the hosts the numbers advantage. They had already proven their superiority, with George Horne grabbing the first try in just the second minute.
He added the extras himself, the first of eight successful conversions. Dragons responded with five tries in a high-scoring affair but Glasgow’s second successive quarter-final spot was never in doubt.
Defending champions Lyon are also safely through to the final eight, defeating Stade Francais 41-24 in Paris. Stade were 21-9 ahead at one stage points but tries from Baptiste Couilloud, Guillaume Marchand and Ethan Dumortier pushed the 2022 winners over the line.
Connacht were ousted by Benetton at Stadio Comunale di Monigo, the Italian side bouncing back from 12-0 behind to post a 41-19 victory. Marcus Watson and Edoardo Padovani both scored two tries as the Irish side’s early momentum dissipated.
The Lions beat Racing 92 51-28 in Johannesburg, winning their first Challenge Cup knockout game despite losing Emmanuel Tshituka to a red card after just 18 minutes. They scored six tries, including two from Marius Louw, as they coped well with 14 men.
Toulon ended the Cheetahs’ first campaign in the competition with a 36-21 win at home, Thomas Salles banking a try and three conversions.
The quarter-finals see Cardiff travel to Benetton, Scarlets take on Claremont Auvergne, Lyon heading to Toulon and Glasgow hosting the Lions.
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