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Match Reaction: Sale Sharks 19 Montpellier 25.

Danny Cipriani is now looking ahead to Sale Sharks’ assault on the top six of Aviva Premiership Rugby after admitting his team paid the penalty in Europe on Friday night.

Sale’s proud unbeaten home record this season came to an end at the hands of Montpellier, despite leading the Challenge Cup tie 11-10 at half-time through Tom Brady’s try and the boot of Cipriani.

In the end, Montpellier scrum-half Benoit Paillaugue was the kicker to grab the headlines as his six penalties sent the French side into the Challenge Cup semi-finals, where they could potentially play Gloucester Rugby.

As for Sale, their attention turns back to making sure Champions Cup rugby returns to the AJ Bell – they have a game in hand over the six teams above them in Aviva Premiership Rugby.

That fixture, against Bath Rugby, will now be played on Saturday April 23 and Cipriani – who will leave Sale for Wasps in the summer – is determined to end the season with a bang.

“We’ve got a game in hand and it’s going to be difficult to play Bath away because they want to be finding some form, and it’s down to us to go get the results,” said Cipriani.

“I’m just trying to make sure the team ticks, we read each other as best we can, and that we stay together as a back-line – we’re really reading each other’s plays.

“When the forwards get involved they’re doing excellent things as well and running great lines.”

Sam James gave Sale late hope after a majestic Cipriani offload set up the young centre’s chip-and-chase try, but Montpellier were too far gone with five minutes to go.

It was nevertheless an encouraging performance against a team that has now won seven games on the trot in all competitions – though Cipriani was frustrated about the amount of penalties given away.

“We didn’t ever think it was gone because in the last five minutes we scored a try and thought we could have a go,” Cipriani added. “We also made a break but we dropped a few balls, we were in holes but didn’t quite execute the ball.

“Where we let ourselves down was giving their No.9 (Paillaugue) easy opportunities in front of the posts, he’s a very accomplished kicker so he’s going to get those kicks.

“They are a big set of boys and when they’re clearing out, we needed to make sure we moved the bodies.

“We didn’t quite do that but there are a lot of positives out of the game, with a slightly depleted squad the boys went for it.”

Sale: Haley; Brady, James Leota (Jennings 77), Edwards; Cipriani, Stringer; Harrison (Lewis-Roberts 53), Taylor (Briggs 66), Cobilas (Mujati 61); Evans, Ostrikov (Mills 68); Neild, Lund (Seymour 12), Ioane.
Replacements: Mitchell, Ford

Montpellier: Mogg (Floch 66); Nagusa, Tuitavke (Ebersohn 61), Steyn, Fall; Lucas, Paillaugue; Nariashvili (Watremez 53), B Du Plessis (Ivaldi 71), J Du Plessis (Kubriashvili 53); Willemse, Privat (Watchou 71); Ouedraogo, Liebenberg (Galletier 57), Qera
Replacements: Wright

Sale Sharks
Tries: Brady, James
Penalties: Cipriani 3

Montpellier
Tries: Willemse
Conversion: Paillaugue
Penalties: Paillaugue 6

Referee: John Lacey

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