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MMA training kicks in as McGuigan loses it against Saracens

BY Grant Constable  ·  Monday Nov 29, 2021

Sale Sharks winger Byron McGuigan let his mixed martial arts training show as he lost his cool with Nick Tompkins during the 25-14 Gallagher Premiership loss to Saracens. 

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Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson admitted that McGuigan let his frustration boil over, leading to his sending off.

McGuigan was dismissed in the 46th minute for striking Nick Tompkins from behind and throwing the Wales centre to the floor, before then propelling him into the side hoarding at StoneX Stadium.

It was clearly a red card even allowing for minor provocation from Tompkins and it came at a point when Sale trailed 13-0 despite controlling territory and possession.

“Byron trains at UFC on his time off so maybe he just had a flash-back of some sort of ultimate fighting session he’s done. I haven’t spoken to him,” Sanderson said.

“He’s a great lad, one of the hardest workers. The emotion, the occasion, the fact we hadn’t scored – I was feeling that too – probably got the better of him.”

(video available in some territories only, but see the incident in the match highlights lower down)

Soon after McGuigan’s dismissal, Billy Vunipola created a try for Sean Maitland that nudged Saracens 18-0 ahead but Sale refused to give up and they hit back with tries from Ben Curry and Raffi Quirke that sandwiched a score for Max Malins.

It was a disappointing end to Sanderson’s return to the club where he spent 13 years as an assistant coach but with the Sharks now facing a bye week, the club intend to make the most of their time in the capital.

“We’ve got some big plans. We’ve got an invasion of London planned. We’re in The Ship in Wandsworth tonight (Sunday) to lick our wounds, commiserate and come together again,” Sanderson said.

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“Then we’ve got a rat race and are going to the magical world of Winter Wonderland tomorrow – so we’ve got that to look forward to. Then it’s a couple of days off and we’re into prepping for Ospreys.”

Vunipola provided the moment of the match in the 50th minute when he dummied his way through Sale’s midfield and sent a long, floated pass to Sean Maitland for the Scotland wing to complete a simple finish.

It completed Vunipola’s recovery from a minor knee injury and was a reminder to England boss Eddie Jones that he has a rugby brain as well as brawn

“Billy was really good again and it is a series of games he has put together for the club all season,” Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall said.

“He has been inspirational for us all the way through. Eddie has just asked him to keep on backing up performances and he certainly did that.”

Apart from the result, McCall saw plenty wrong on an afternoon when Saracens returned to second in the table.

“The first half was really good. It’s as good as we’ve been physically all season and you have to be against Sale because they’re a really confrontational and physical aside,” McCall said.

“But I’m really disappointed with how we managed the second half and how we were all the way through it.

“It’s bit of a symptom of our season so far, we’ve been hot and cold in a lot of matches and the last 25 minutes didn’t feel very good.”

Match highlights, including the red card

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