4 Dec, 10:19
Grand Slam winners Fiona Coghlan and Nora Stapelton have returned the Women's RBS 6 Nations trophy to Chief Executive John Feehan at the Six Nations offices in Dublin.
Challenge Cup Semi-Final, Second Leg: Sunday, April 24 Sale Sharks 59 (84) Connacht 9 (27), Edgeley Park Scorers: Sale: Tries: Mark Cueto 3, Charlie Hodgson, Steven Hanley, Andy Titterell, Jason White; Cons: Hodgson 5, Richard Wigglesworth; Pens: Hodgson 3; Drop: Jason Robinson Connacht: Pens: Paul Warwick 2, Mark McHugh
Connacht bowed out at the last four stage of Europe's second tier competition for the second consecutive year as their brave bid for Heineken Cup qualification fell away in Stockport.
Three years ago, the men from the west lost in the equivalent competition 44-6 at Sale and they were de-railed in similar fashion as Philippe Saint-Andre's side gradually wore down the province's resolve.
Connacht lock Christian Short's sin-binning just after the half-hour owed much to Sale's 31-9 half-time lead - as coach Michael Bradley pointed out afterwards.
"For us to win today we needed everything to go our way and that didn't happen," admitted the Connacht supremo, whose side travelled seven points in arrears from the first leg.
"We needed to put constant pressure on Sale but after we got Christian (Short) binned Sale sensed the opportunity and drove it home."
Third in the Zurich Premiership before kick-off, and armed with four current British and Irish Lions and 12 internationals in their starting line-up, Sale eventually tallied up a 57-point two-leg win - keeping Connacht well at bay.
Fly-halves Charlie Hodgson - who bagged a 24-point haul before being substituted - and Paul Warwick split four penalties in the early stages for a 6-6 score line on 16 minutes.
From then on, Sale's forward dominance saw them gobble up the territory and a telling first try for Hodgson on 28 minutes was created brilliantly by former Scotland scrum-half Bryan Redpath's snipe and set-up.
Although that score went unconverted, a drop goal from Sale captain Jason Robinson pushed the home side further ahead after Short was yellow carded fo handling at a ruck.
Mark McHugh snapped back three points for Connacht with a lengthy 37th-minute penalty but the decision looked over by the break.
Andy Titterell lurched over for a converted try in the corner, Hodgson followed up with a penalty and Robert Todd intercepted a Michael Swift pass to allow Steven Hanley to gas over from 50 metres out.
It went from bad to worse for Connacht on the restart as, at 31-9 down, the Six Nations' top try scorer Mark Cueto went over twice to set up Hodgson for two more conversions.
Scotland flanker Jason White added another nearing the hour and Cueto's third try in the closing minutes wrapped up a sorry end to a progressive season for Bradley's men.
Sale: Jason Robinson (Capt); Mark Cueto, Jos Baxendell, Robert Todd, Steven Hanley; Charlie Hodgson, Bryan Redpath; Andrew Sheridan, Andy Titterell, Ben Coutts, Fernandez Lobbe, Dean Schofield, Jason White, Chris Jones, Sebastien Chabal.
Replacements used: Barry Stewart for Coutts (35 mins), Sebastien Bruno for Sheridan (40), Peter Anglesea for Schofield (55), Chris Rhys Jones for Todd (57), Richard Wigglesworth for Hodgson, Sililo Martens for Redpath (both 64). Not used: Magnus Lund.
(15) Matt Mostyn (14) Conor McPhillips (13) Mark McHugh (12) James Downey (11) Ted Robinson (10) Paul Warwick (9) Chris Keane (1) Ray Hogan (2) Bernard Jackman (3) Peter Bracken (4) Christian Short (5) Andrew Farley (Capt) (6) Michael Swift (7) Brendan O'Connor (8) John O'Sullivan
Replacements used: Stephen Knoop for Bracken, David Slemen for Robinson, Eric Elwood for McHugh (all 54 mins), Mike Walls for Keane (55), Paul Neville for Swift, Michael Carroll for O'Sullivan (both 70). Not used: Joseph Merrigan.
Sin-bin: Christian Short (Connacht) (31 mins) HT: Sale 31 Connacht 9; Attendance: 6,456 Referee: Rob Dickson (Scotland)