Ashton hat-trick powers Sale Sharks to 34-13 win over Connacht

Chris Ashton was the star performer for Sale Sharks on Saturday
Chris Ashton was the star performer for Sale Sharks on Saturday

Sale Sharks 34-13 Connacht, AJ Bell Stadium

Chris Ashton had a memorable debut as Sale Sharks completed a 34-13 win over Connacht in their European Rugby Challenge Cup encounter at AJ Bell Stadium on Saturday.

This is Sale Sharks' second win of the tournament as they occupy the pole position in Pool 3 with 10 points while Connacht are at second place with four points.

Steve Diamond's men had a terrible start to the game when Faf de Klerk was sin-binned in the second minute for a deliberate knock-on and Conor Fitzgerald kicked a penalty goal to begin the proceedings for Connacht.

Fitzgerald stretched the Irish regional side's lead to six points with his second penalty kick in the 17th minute but de Klerk on his return from the sin-bin kicked back to back penalties as the scores were levelled 6-6.

Hooker Shane Delahunt gave Connacht advantage when he dotted down in the 31st minute that was improved by Fitzgerald but Ashton's opener in the 37th minute followed by de Klerk's conversion meant the scores were levelled 13-13 heading into the break.

Sale completely dominated the second half as a three-minute blitz saw Josh Beaumont and Ashton dotting down in the 55th and 57th minutes with de Klerk slotting the extras on both the occasions.

The Premiership side's momentum was aided further when Connacht flanker Paul Boyle was yellow-carded for tackling without a ball and Ashton with his third in the 64th minute ensured Sale Sharks completed a 34-13 victory.