Anthony Foley blames Clermont home defeat for European exit

Munster hammer Sale Sharks 65-10 to finish two points off Champions Cup progression

Munster head coach Anthony Foley admitted his side's 65-10 thumping of Sale at Thomond Park felt "bittersweet" as their hopes of making the European Champions Cup quarter-finals had disappeared before this round-six clash.

The Irish province, who led 13-10 at half-time, blitzed the bottom-placed Sharks with eight second-half tries to run out emphatic winners. There were try doubles from man of the match Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway, along with a penalty try and well-taken efforts from Keith Earls, Pat Howard, Tommy O'Donnell and Duncan Williams.

The Reds’ hopes of reaching the last eight were ended with their defeat away to Saracens last week. This is only the second time in 17 years that Munster will not be involved in April’s quarter-final clashes.

“The feeling is very bittersweet. You see Saracens going through to the quarter-finals as one of the best runners-up on 17 points. You are left kicking yourself after what happened in the Clermont game here at Thomond Park,” said Foley, referring to December’s 16-9 home loss to the French side.

“You can’t lose at home and hope to qualify with the calibre of teams that are in your group. It is very hard to go and win twice away from home in the group we had this year.

“Getting the win against Sale in round one and having an excellent contest here against Saracens... and then to turn up here against Clermont at home and lose, ultimately, when you look back at it, it’s what cost us.

“This win will give us confidence. We have had a very tough week leading into this Sale game, mentally more than physically within the group in terms of where we are and where we thought we were.

“When you come out of that, you come out of it stronger, because we all have stuck together and made sure we gave our answer today and played right to the 80th minute.”

The former Munster number eight and captain added: “Fellas did that for the people that mattered to them. They wanted to show the work, the sacrifices they put in week in and week out that it is not all for nil. It was great to score right at the final whistle (with Conway going over).

“It was a good physical contest out there and we didn’t shy from that in the first half. In the first half we were playing into the elements. At one stage they were camped on our line and the boys kept turning up. I know we suffered a yellow card (for Conway), but we upped the ante during that period and we held them off. We reaped the rewards of that in the last 20 minutes.”

Sale did not provide a coach or player for post-match reaction.