Cardiff Rugby 28 - 27 Sale Sharks
HT 22-10
Sat 01 April 20:00 Cardiff Arms Park European Challenge Cup

Cardiff 28 Sale Sharks 27

Sat 1 Apr 2023 22:30 Cardiff 28 Sale Sharks 27

On an emotionally-charged evening at the Arms Park, Cardiff paid tribute to Peter Thomas in perfect fashion as they clung on for a memorable European Challenge Cup last 16 triumph over Sale Sharks.

Cardiff opened the scoring through the boot of Jarrod Evans but it was Sale who claimed the opening try thanks to a forward drive finished by Akker van der Merwe. 

That however sprung the Blue and Blacks into action and it was a stunning first half performance as Corey Domachowski crossed before a Josh Adams brace.

Sale batted back in the second-half and even took the lead thanks to a third Sale Sharks try but Evans slotted a simple penalty with ten minutes to go and spirited Blue and Blacks hung on for an historic win.

They now travel to face Benetton Rugby in the quarter-finals of the competition a week today. 

It was a hugely emotional occasion at Cardiff Arms Park as the Blue and Blacks took to the field for the first time since the passing of Peter Thomas CBE.

In the hours before kick-off it was announced that the South Stand had been renamed the Peter Thomas Stand.

Peter’s whole family was in attendance with some joining the two teams, the board of directors, the club’s entire permanent workforce and a host of former players for a minute’s silence followed by a minute’s applause. 

Several members of staff, family members and friends were visibly moved by the emotional tribute before the crowd burst into glorious chants of Cardiff. 

It was an electric atmosphere at the Arms Park but Cardiff soon had their backs against the wall as Sale enjoyed the best of the early exchanges.

They hammered at the Blue and Blacks but the home side defended heroically and survived the early scare.

Moments later a bruising driving line out saw Cardiff gather momentum and on 10 minutes Jarrod Evans knocked over the opening points following a dominant scrum. 

Cardiff were also enjoying plenty of joy in the wide channels with Mason Grady causing chaos. He broke down the left but a mix up with Josh Adams saw the opportunity go unconverted and Sale quickly swooped for a turnover penalty. 

They kicked to the corner and Akker van der Merwe powered off the back of the maul despite the best efforts of Adams who was agonisingly close to stripping possession. 

George Ford knocked over the extras to give his side a 3-7 lead but less than five minutes later, Cardiff were back. 

It was a stunning try that came out of difficulty as referee Luc Ramos got in the way of Tomos Williams. With nowhere to go the Wales scrum-half looped a long pass to Grady on the wing.

He scorched down the left before doing remarkably well to stay in play and offload to Max Llewellyn, who burst through two defenders. He offloaded to Thomas Young, who had come on early for Lopeti Timani, and he was tackled short, albeit high.

However the damage was done, Cardiff generated lighting quick ball and Domachowski thundered over on a crash ball pass.

Evans added the extras to put Cardiff 10-7 in front. 

George Ford levelled from a harsh penalty at the breakdown but on 33 minutes, Cardiff crossed for a second stunning try. 

Jarrod Evans scattered the Sale midfield with a trademark double pump, bringing Priestland onto his left late. The fly-half-cum-full-back hit the ball at pace and fired a sharp pass off his left to Adams for his 10 try in nine previous matches. 

Evans miss-hit the conversion, which drifted wide much to the fly-half’s dismay. However Cardiff continued to cause problems with the ball in hand and up front with a dominant scrum.

The set-piece had Sale on the racks and that allowed the home side to set up camp on the Sale try line with the clock in the red. 

With the advantage it looked as though Teddy Williams had finished a fine sweeping move but play was brought back for a forward pass.

Replays appeared to show the ball had come off a Sale head but while the try was not awarded, Cardiff soon crossed. They again drove Sale back at the set-piece and playing with the advantage, Evans dinked a cross-kick to the corner, which Adams collected to score in spectacular fashion. 

Evans made amends with the conversion and Cardiff went into the break leading 22-10 and with Sale reduced to 14 after Nick Schonert was shown yellow.

The second-half began in much the same fashion as Cardiff earned an early scrum penalty and Evans was on target from distance to make it 25-10. 

Soon after a period of open play saw Cardiff caught off guard, and numerous players out on their feet as the game progressed at a furious pass, with Tom Roebuck surged down the right as the Blue and Blacks ran out of numbers. Ford converted to cut Cardiff’s lead to eight. 

Ford kept the scoreboard ticking for the visitors and they levelled the scores after a succession of penalties paved the way for Ewan Ashman to power over. The try was referred to the TMO and despite no footage of the ball being grounded the score was awarded.

Former England fly-half Ford booted his side into a two-point lead with little more than 15 minutes remaining. 

A scrum penalty swung the momentum back into Cardiff’s favour as the final quarter approached and the Blue and Black went to a sustained period of pressure in the Sale twenty-two. They were unable to break the visitors down but settled for a penalty, which Evans slotted for a 28-27 lead.

Sale certainly remained in the fight and were throwing the kitchen sink in Cardiff’s direction in the closing moments. However, their final opportunity came to an end as James Botham claimed a superb turnover under the shadows of his own posts.

Cardiff’s strength of character came to the fore in the final minutes as they managed the game to secure their place in the quarter final and keep the hopes for a third European crown alive.