Dimes focused on Sarries as Tigers tamed
LEICESTER TIGERS SALE SHARKS 16 18 SALE survived a nervy finish on their way to victory at Leicester and are now ready to welcome back Faf de Klerk and possibly Chris Ashton when they return to Premiership action against Saracens next weekend.
A rare win at Welford Road, 18-16, was sealed thanks to a penalty try two minutes from time, although Leicester could still have snatched victory at the death had Tom Hardwick held his nerve with a penalty.
His effort was pushed just wide though, with Sale now up and running in the Premiership Rugby Cup, but for Steve Diamond, the focus has already turned to taking on the Premiership champions in London next weekend.
And the return of scrum-half De Klerk, with the Springboks in France this weekend, is likely to be a major boost, while Diamond is also hoping that England may release Ashton too.
He said: “We’ll welcome Faf de Klerk back on Monday morning to prepare for Saracens. If we’ve only had three wins here in 25 years, we’ve not won down there for ten so we need to get our act together because if we play like that, we won’t win.
“If England beat New Zealand, [Eddie Jones] might release Chris Ashton to us. Faf will be back, Rohan van Rensburg will be back, Bryn Evans too, so we should be missing Tom Curry only.”
With both teams still searching for a first win in the competition, this match was more a chance to warm up for the league, and as the rain poured down, the quality was lacking.
Sale probably just about deserved it, dominating the opening quarter and the closing stages, with Rob Webber crossing for their first try from a rolling maul on 17 minutes that opened up an 8-0 lead.
A kicking battle between Hardwick and Robert du Preez, on debut, left the visitors 11-6 up just before half-time, but that is when Leicester struck through No.8 Guy Thompson out wide.
Hardwick’s conversion made it 13-11 to the Tigers, and he added three more from a penalty a quarter of an hour into the second half.
But from that point on, Sale took control, eventually rewarded with a penalty try from another maul with Leicester down to 14 following Facundo Gigena’s sin-binning.
That looked to have won it, but a penalty from the restart gave Hardwick the chance to deny the Sharks, but he could not split the uprights, much to the amusement of Diamond.
He added: “Their guy who kicked the conversion (in the first half) perhaps celebrated a little too early.
“I thought it was an evenlymatched game. We needed a runout. It’s new to all coaches, this three-week gap so I don’t think anybody has got it right.
“We’re happy with a win because we don’t often win at this place.”
Sale Sharks’ Jono Ross wins a line out during last night’s clash with Leicester