Sale vs Connacht: European Rugby Challenge Cup match Sale vs Connacht (20 Oct 2018). Preview and stats followed by live commentary, video highlights and match report.
James Fish led the way with a hat-trick, taking his tally to five in two for preseason, while Ken Pisi, Cobus Reinach and David Ribbans also notched amidst some excellent defensive spells.
It was a first half that asked plenty of questions of Saints without the ball and while early pressure was repelled well enough to force Josh Lewis into taking a drop goal, Dragons’ second visit ended with scrum-half Rhodri Williams wrestling over.
Though Dragons would continue to enjoy the lion’s share of possession, the visitors were beginning to edge the territory and with intensity remaining up, Pisi intercepted between the home 10 and 22m lines and cantered between the posts.
It provided a much needed foothold for Saints and another excellent defensive read this time sent Reinach blazing clear, Dragons giving up the chase with some 15 metres still to go. Dan Biggar was on the mark with both conversions and after a raft of changes at the break, Saints remained in the ascendency.
For the third time in two games the forwards bullied their way over the line and it was hooker Fish, rejoining at the back of the line out drive, who grounded, Ribbans then scoring some 12 minutes later as the pack continued to show their proficiency from close range.
Having stretched their lead, defence came to the fore once more and while a string of penalties saw Dragons set up camp in the Saints’ 22, a scrum penalty won against the head some 10 minutes later was celebrated as fervently by the men in lime as the tries that had gone before.
And those pats on the back were verified moments later when Saints swept upfield with a series of penalties. The pack drove Fish over for his second of the evening and the hooker was soon celebrating his treble, strolling over from close range after good work from Grayson, Emery and Pisi took Saints close.
That took the final tally for the evening and while there was plenty to celebrate in attack, it was defensive resilience and hunger not to concede that will have perhaps given Chris Boyd and his coaches the most satisfaction in Newport.