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Sale Sharks will attempt to win a fifth straight Challenge Cup match against Connacht Rugby on Saturday when they clash at the AJ Bell Stadium from 15:00 BST.
The English side opened up with a comprehensive 41-24 victory at Perpignan while Connacht enjoyed a 22-10 win over Bordeaux-Begles.
- Sale have won all four of their games against Connacht, winning two pool matches in 2001/02 and both legs of a semi-final in 2004/05.
- Sharks have won 23 of their last 26 pool games at home (D1 L2). All five of their all-time home losses in the competition have come against TOP 14 sides.
- Connacht have recorded just two away wins against Gallagher Premiership opponents in the Challenge Cup, a 20-15 victory over Northampton in their first such game (1997/98) and a 26-21 win over Worcester in 2010.
- Byron McGuigan was the top scorer in Round 1, scoring a hat-trick and doubling his career record in Europe having scored three in 13 previous matches for Sale, Exeter and Glasgow.
- Connacht won 27 of their 28 set pieces in Round 1. Only Bristol (100%) had a better record over the opening weekend.
MATCH PREVIEW – @connachtrugby ☘️
Read John Everton's preview of this weekends @ERChallengeCup Round 2 Match against Connacht here 👉 https://t.co/Udf39VcYz4#SharkTime #SharksByName #SharksByNature pic.twitter.com/1LzZhqhVZv
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) October 17, 2018
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Chris Ashton celebrated his competitive debut for Sale Sharks with a hat-trick of tries to help his new club seal a bonus point win and keep them top of Pool 3 in the European Rugby Challenge Cup.
Ashton, who missed the first seven weeks of the season, got off the mark in great style when he romped in from half-way and Francois de Klerk’s conversion made it 13-13 at the break.
36' Sale defending inside their half. Wilkinson rips the ball in the tackle and sends play wide through the backs. Chris Ashton has it all to do from halfway but wins the foot race down the wing to score on his debut! #SALvCON [11-13]
— Sale Sharks🦈 (@SaleSharksRugby) October 20, 2018
The home side dominated the second period though as lock forward Josh Beaumont went over and three minutes later Ashton added his second.
Then with 15 minutes remaining, Ashton completed a memorable week, following his England squad call-up, as he notched his hat-trick after Sale’s Paul Boyle was given a yellow card for tackling a player without the ball.
Connacht had started the game well when hooker Shane Delahunt crossed on the half-hour after great work from the pack and fly-half Conor Fitzgerald converted to add to two early penalties on his debut.
Caolin Blade says it's "an absolute honour" to captain his province today but the result is disappointing pic.twitter.com/bShHGei5v1
— Connacht Rugby (@connachtrugby) October 20, 2018
It completed a shaky start for Sale who had de Klerk sin-binned in the opening minutes for a deliberate knock-on but Ashton then turned the game on its head.
Sale’s next assignment is at Bordeaux Begles in round three on December 8 while Connacht bid to bounce back the same day at home to Perpignan.
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