At the end of a hard-fought and rather choppy match, Stade Français were beaten at Sale (28-5), for their Heineken Champions Cup debut on Sunday afternoon. Completely weaned on the ball, the Parisians played with their backs to the wall before logically cracking in the second half, facing the density of the leader of the English league.
The Pink Soldiers spent a good part of the match cornered in their own half (60% occupancy and up to 75% in the second half), and in these conditions they had to be doubly efficient to hope for anything. The plan was respected in the first half, when the only major play was finished by Jeremy Ward (26th, 3-5). For his first captaincy, the centre was sent into the in-goal by Kylan Hamdaoui (exceptionally lined up on the wing) after a breakthrough by Léo Barré.
The Parisian formula works.
Very solid in defence, dazzling in attack!
First attempt in #InvestecChampionsCup of the @SFParisRugby pic.twitter.com/Gbn8iHQRDT
— Investec Champions Cup France (@ChampionsCup_FR) December 10, 2023
This brilliant move kept the Parisians, who were very aggressive in defence, in the lead at the break (6-5). But by dint of suffering, Laurent Labit's players folded, against a team with a game plan that was anything but revolutionary but very effective. After a succession of upwind plays, the Sharks exploited two extra men on the field, scoring by Tom O'Flaherty (53rd, 14-5) and Johnny Hill (63rd, 21-5). Not always effective in their occupation at the foot in the absence of Rory Kockott, the Parisians had all the trouble in the world to secure their exits. The contrast with the English, led by George Ford, was striking.
A very copious menu to follow
Sam Dugdale's last try (73rd, 28-5), after yet another phase of fixing the forwards, definitively dampened the hopes of a defensive bonus. The Parisians will console themselves – meagre – by having deprived Sale of an attacking bonus that could count. Given their extremely extensive menu – Leicester, Leinster and Stormers will follow – Stade Français will have to raise their level if they hope to survive in Pool D.