Pres­sure tells as Tigers buckle at end to lose again

PENALTY TRY SEALS FATE AS LEICES­TER RE­MAIN POINT­LESS IN PRE­MIER­SHIP CUP

Leicester Mercury - - Sport - By PAUL JONES le­ices­ter­mer­cury.co.uk/sport

LEICES­TER Tigers suf­fered a third con­sec­u­tive Pre­mier­ship Cup de­feat when they were beaten 18-16 at Welford Road by Sale Sharks.

A penalty try four min­utes from time saw Sale snatch vic­tory, though Tigers had one last shot at res­cu­ing the game only for Tom Hard­wick to pull a 40m penalty wide.

The first half was a mess in the sat­u­rated con­di­tions and Tigers did not help them­selves with a string of er­rors.

The visi­tors went ahead with a Rob Du Preez penalty on nine min­utes and ex­tended their ad­van­tage to 8-0 just five min­utes later when hooker Rob Web­ber was driven over from a line-out close to the home line.

Tigers re­sponded with a Tom Hard­wick penalty mid­way through the half, but then gifted Sale an­other three points when they were pe­nalised from the re-start.

Hard­wick landed his sec­ond penalty of the evening when he con­nected from 40m in what was be­com­ing an ever-scrap­pier af­fair, Tigers sim­ply un­able to find any co­he­sion in at­tack, but not too far be­hind at 6-11. How­ever, they fi­nally got it right in the clos­ing mo­ments of the half with what was their first se­ri­ous as­sault on the visi­tors.

Tigers’ scrum, which was again op­er­at­ing well, won a penalty and Hard­wick put the ball into the cor­ner.

Tigers won pos­ses­sion and ham­mered away at the Sale line, be­fore spin­ning the ball wide to No.8 Guy Thomp­son, who crashed over in the cor­ner.

Hard­wick landed a fine con­ver­sion from the touch­line and Leices­ter went in at the break with their noses ahead, 13-11.

Tigers were barely seen as an at­tack­ing force in the sec­ond half of what was be­com­ing a for­get­table night.

Sale en­joyed much the greater share of pos­ses­sion, though Leices­ter’s de­fence did at least stand up to what­ever the visi­tors pro­duced.

Tigers man­aged to push their lead to five points when Jordan Olowofela’s chip through earned a penalty 40m out which Hard­wick knocked over to make it 16-11 af­ter 52 min­utes. Leices­ter, though, rarely looked like adding to that and even their scrum, where they had en­joyed first-half dom­i­nance, be­gan to strug­gle.

As a re­sult Sale were camped in the Tigers’ half for long stretches of the sec­ond half, and Leices­ter sim­ply un­able to clear their lines even when the Sharks did cough up the ball.

The pres­sure, though, even­tu­ally told in the clos­ing min­utes.

Tigers con­ceded a se­ries of penal­ties in­side their over 5m line and prop Fa­cundo Gi­gena was yel­low carded as the ref­eree ran out of pa­tience.

Sale took ad­van­tage and a drive for the line was il­le­gally stopped, ac­cord­ing to the ref, who went un­der the posts for a penalty try.

With two min­utes left Tigers won a penalty 40m out but Hard­wick was un­able to land the goal and the game had slipped away from the hosts.

NATHAN STIRK / GETTY

RAIN-DRENCHED: Rob Du Preez of Sale Sharks boots the ball into the wind and rain in the first half of last night’s Pre­mier­ship Cup match at Wle­ford Road

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