Sale 34 - 33 Cardiff Blues
Sale Sharks upset the form book with a late, late win in their Heineken Cup opener at the Salford City Stadium, as they beat Cardiff Bl
Thanks to Alex Cuthbert's first half hat-trick, Cardiff had opened up a 24-12 half-time lead, as the winger tore through Sale's defence. But a change of the Sale half-back partnership ten minutes into the second half changed the dynamics of this game. The introduction of Danny Cipriani for Nick MacLeod and Cillian Willis for teenage debutant Nathan Fowles gave the Sharks a new dimension. That change came when the score was at 12-27, and with a fifteen point advantage, Cardiff were in control. The Blues showed that they were dangerous from the very start, as Leigh Halfpenny gave Sale notification that the visitors meant business, striking a penalty goal on three minutes from five metres inside his own half. Sam Warburton left the field with a suspected dislocated finger early on, but his departure didn't unsettle the Blues, as they eventually took control of the game. Cuthbert opened his account on 16 minutes, put through by Jamie Roberts, adding his second only two minutes later, before getting his third in the closing stages of the first period, as he evaded desperate Sale hands after Marc Breeze had made the hard yards for him. Sale also had their chances, but a dropped pass by Mark Jennings saw a score go begging. With four first half Nick MacLeod penalties to show for their efforts, Sale had it all to do in the second half. Halfpenny added a second long range penalty minutes after the restart, just before Bryan Redpath introduced the mercurial Cipriani. It was the summer signing from Melbourne who started the comeback, as he touched down six minutes after he entered the field, before the new half-back partnership were involved in the build-up to Jennings' debut try on 64 minutes. Those tries sandwiched another kick by Halfpenny from within his own half, and with the score at 24-30 going into the final period, it was the home side who were beginning to gain momentum. Indiscipline in the ruck by Lewis Jones led to him walking for a yellow card with six minutes to play, and in the following move, Tony Buckley drove his way over for a score that was eventually given after French referee Jerome Garces had consulted the TMO. Rob Miller converted to put the Sharks in front for the first time, and the home support erupted as they realised that their side were on the brink of a first win of the season. Further penalties from Miller and Halfpenny cancelled each other out as the game ended in a nail-biting finish.