After a five-week break from league action, London Welsh were brought crashing back to earth with a mauling at the hands of Sale Sharks, writes SIMON WILLIAMS.

The Exiles had come close to getting that elusive first victory of the season in their recent European Challenge Cup and LV= Cup games in recent weeks, but these competitions are a world away from the quality and intensity of the Aviva Premiership.

A dominant Sale side put eight tries past a sorry Welsh side, who are slipping rapidly towards the Premiership trapdoor.

It had, though, had been a dream start for Welsh and for scrum half Rob Lewis, who intercepted a stray Sale pass in the fourth minute and ran 60 metres to touch down under the posts on his 100th league appearance.

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Seb Jewell got the conversion to make it 7-0.

The lead was not to last long, however, as Sale levelled three minutes later through a Mike Haley’s try converted by Nick Macleod.

Welsh had an opportunity to retake the lead shortly afterwards but Jewell’s penalty from wide on the right hit the right-hand post.

Sale took the lead in the 15th minute when the ball was recycled for Tommy Taylor to go over. MacLeod adding the extras for 14-7.

Sale extended their lead when Will Addison scored under the posts, Macleod converting.

Sale grabbed their fourth try in the 34th minute when Taylor went over for his second try, Macleod adding the extras to ensure Sale wrapped up the bonus point early.

Sale scored their fifth try on the stroke of half-time through Tom Arscott.

Macleod converted to make it 35-7.

Former Exiles player Arscott got his second of the game five minutes after the restart, chasing a grubber kick by Haley, before beating Will Robinson in a race to the corner.

With Macleod missing the conversion, Sale were 40-7 ahead and threatening the sort of humiliating 70-plus points defeat inflicted on Welsh by Wasps and Saracens this season.

However, to their credit, the Exiles fought back valiantly.

Welsh centre James Tincknell was held up by Sale defenders on the tryline, but the home side got the try their play deserved in the 56th minute.

A good driving maul resulted in No 8 Opeti Fonua scoring in the corner, after the try was awarded by the television match official.

It proved to be merely a brief respite, as Sale rediscovered their dominant form.

Mark Cueto, the Premiership’s leading try- scorer, increased his tally to 88 with an interception try in the 73rd minute from 70 metres out. It was converted by Joe Ford.

Addison got his second try of the game two minutes from time as it finished 52-12, leaving Welsh with a mammoth task to regroup ahead of their visit to Gloucester next weekend.