Penalty try earns Sale rare win over Tigers
SALE edged to victory in a tense finale but the late drama did little to lift a forgettable match at a wet Welford Road.
Tom Hardwick, the young Leicester fly-half, will remember the night for his last-minute penalty miss which would have rescued Tigers from a third straight loss in this new back-up competition.
Instead, Sale were left celebrating a rare win here – only their third in 25 years reckoned Steve Diaresumes mond afterwards – thanks to a penalty try in the 78th minute of a match dominated by forward wrestles and not much more.
Leicester, who led 16-11, defended fiercely late on and repelled a succession of Sale drives off line-outs until substitute prop Facundo Gigena was sinbinned by the busy referee Simon Harding whose night’s work saw him award 29 penalties.
However, despite the feelgood factor, Sale’s director of rugby was quick to warn that his squad would have to play much better when the Premiership proper next Saturday at Saracens.
Diamond admitted Sale had “sneaked a win” and added: “We are preparing for Saracens next week which we know, if we’ve only had three wins here in 25 years and we’ve not won down there for ten, we need to get our act together.
“If we play like we did tonight we won’t win next week.”
Sale will have South African scrum-half Faf de Klerk available at Saracens and Diamond hopes injured England flanker Tom Curry will be back fit early in the New Year.
Diamond said Curry, whose brother Ben played a full part in this win, will be out for six to eight weeks due to the ankle injury he sustained in England’s win over South Africa last week.
A return in early January would give the international a chance to be fit for England’s Six Nations campaign when this secondary Premiership Cup resumes.
This match-up saw both Leicester and Sale field far stronger teams than the previous two Cup games in an effort to be ready for the Premiership re-start.
For Leicester, after that limp performance against Worcester last Saturday, it was a much better display on a wet night which contributed to the low quality on offer.
Sale deserved victory for the weight of possession though they allowed an early lead to fritter away before exerting their superiority in the final quarter.
Leicester took a 13-11 lead just before half-time when their best attacking spell earned a try, in the right corner, for No.8 Guy Thompson.
Hardwick landed the conversion from the touchline to go alongside two earlier penalty goals which came after Sale’s 17thminute try from hooker Rob Webber.
Rob du Preez, the South African fly-half brought in to cover the injured AJ MacGinty, missed the conversion, having kicked a penalty in the third minute.
A third penalty from Hardwick 13 minutes into the second half put Leicester 16-11 ahead.
That lead lasted a full 25 minutes before Sale’s commanding forward advantage gained a penalty try.
Leicester’s good re-start earned a penalty from the resulting breakdown but Hardwick’s kick from 38m faded away in the difficult conditions to leave Sale celebrating.
Threat: Matt Postlethwaite makes a break for Sale
High rise: Tigers’ Graham Kitchener wins a lineout