Paris - South Africa's Rugby World Cup winner Faf de Klerk made a victorious return to club duty as Sale beat 14-man La Rochelle 25-15 in the European Champions Cup on Sunday.
De Klerk lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy earlier in the month and featured for 75 minutes as the English side clinched their first win of the campaign to move second in Pool 2 behind Exeter but a point ahead of Glasgow in third place.
The French outfit played the entire second half with just 14 men after France hooker Pierre Bourgarit was dismissed for making contact with the eye of the hosts' flanker Tom Curry.
"The red card changed the course of the match," La Rochelle coach Jono Gibbes said.
"I recognise the squad showed character in the second half, even if they weren't rewarded for their efforts. We're disappointed," he added.
Sale led 7-0 after eight minutes as the US Eagles' fly-half AJ MacGinty converted Rohan Janse van Rensburg's try.
Vincent Rattez's effort after 20 minutes and Brock James' extras brought the sides level.
MacGinty, who featured for the Americans at the World Cup, slotted a penalty on 32 minutes before Bourgarit's moment of madness two minutes before the break.
As England's Curry scuffled with La Rochelle's Dany Priso, Bourgarit gouged the flanker's eyes from behind and was sent for an early shower after referee Andrew Brace asked his video official for a second opinion.
Despite inferiority on the field, La Rochelle's James brought the sides level with a three-pointer four minutes into the second half.
But the home side were awarded a penalty try, MacGinty added another kick at goal and Chris Ashton scored before the visitors' Jeremy Sinzelle crossed for a consolation effort after the clock turned red.
Ill-disciplined Du Plessis
Later, De Klerk's Springboks halfback partner Handre Pollard missed his chance to make his Montpellier debut as they beat Gloucester 30-27.
He watched from the stands as he recovers from a facial injury sustained celebrating the World Cup win.
Montpellier were down to 14 men for the closing 25 minutes as South African lock Jacques du Plessis was red carded for elbowing Gerbrandt Grobler, a similar incident to France's Sebastien Vahaamahina's infringement during the World Cup quarter-finals.
"We probably had the game there and it could have been a turning point had we not worked a little bit harder," Montpellier winger Nemani Nadolo told BT Sport.
"Credit to the boys, they stuck in there. We held our own," he added.
On Saturday, title holders Saracens hammered Welsh side Ospreys 44-3 in their first home fixture since they were handed a £5 million fine and docked 35 points for breaching Premiership Rugby's salary cap rules.