Leicester show Sale no mercy
March 2, 2013
Leicester grabbed six tries against Sale%]
Leicester got their bid for a home Premiership play-off semi-final back on track by thrashing Sale Sharks 48-10 at Welford Road.
The five points from the six tries to one victory was a major boost for Leicester after successive defeats by the top two clubs, Harlequins and Saracens. Leicester dominated the bottom club from start to finish, and there were two tries each for lock Ed Slater and centre Matt Smith, one from full-back Mathew Tait and a penalty try.
Fly-half George Ford finished the match with a 100 per cent kicking record, converting all the tries and kicking two penalties for a tally of 18 points. Replacement Andy Powell scored Sale's only try with Danny Cipriani kicking a conversion and Nick Macleod a penalty.
England flanker Tom Croft, making his way back after a neck operation, captained Leicester on his 100th start and the Tigers were boosted by the return of number eight Thomas Waldrom from international duty. Sale, struggling at the bottom with just four wins from 16 games, left former Wasps and England fly-half Danny Cipriani on the bench, preferring to start with Nick Macleod.
Croft got Leicester, who started the day in third place, off to a fine start, taking the kick off two-handed before surging into the 22, a move which led to a penalty for Ford. It set the tone for the half which Leicester won 27-3, although the margin would have been much bigger had the Leicester backs converted all the chances that came their way.
They scored three tries, two from lock Ed Slater, the other a penalty try, with Ford converting all three and also kicking two penalties.
Sale's points came from a penalty by Macleod on their only visit to the Leicester half. After Ford's early penalty it took Leicester 25 minutes to rattle the scoreboard again.
Waldrom thought he had scored but referee Wayne Barnes spotted a knock-on in the move, and winger Niall Morris should have scored when he split the Sale defence with a fabulous diagonal run but, inexplicably, hit the brakes 20 metres from the line.
Slater got Leicester motoring after the backs had wasted another chance, tidying up the move before stretching for the line for his first try of the season which Ford converted. Macleod pulled three points back with a long range penalty but conceded one from the restart which Ford banged over.
Leicester made it 20-3 when they were awarded a penalty try, winger Tom Brady receiving a yellow card for taking Leicester winger Adam Thompstone out off the ball when he was about to score from Dan Bowden's grubber kick.
Ford converted that and right on half time he also converted Leicester's third try from the right touchline, Slater surging through a hole on the right before hitting the gas for the best try of the half.
Leicester capitulated at home to Saracens last week after leading 17-6 at half time but they started the second period much better this time, capitalising on a poor line-out by Sale near their own line to fashion a try for centre Matt Smith in the opposite corner. Ford added the conversion and then took his points tally to 16 when he converted a second try by Smith who waltzed through the Sale defence to score under the posts in the 54th minute to make it 41-3.
Sale had introduced Cipriani three minutes earlier and showed the odd glimpse of what made him a special talent but Sale struggled to get even a foothold in the game and in the 68th minute they found themselves attacking Leicester's line one minute and conceding a sixth try the next, full-back Mathew Tait scoring after a great counter by replacement scrum half Micky Young. Ford added the conversion.
Replacement Andy Powell broke Sale's duck with a try off the back of a scrum a minute from time. Cipriani added the conversion.
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill was delighted with his side's attitude and feels it will bear them in good stead ahead of bigger challenges to come in the league and Heineken Cup.
"It was a really good performance. Sale have got some issues but I thought the attitude of the players was outstanding," he said. "I was a bit surprised how easy it was to play against Sale. I thought they would be better. But I'm delighted, we needed to win and with the Quins result (losing to Exeter) it puts us back in the melting pot for the top two again.
"We have come out of this (international) period with 11 points from four games, which is not brilliant, but with some of the things that have gone against us we are still in the mix with guys to come back."
Sale's director of rugby Steve Diamond knows his side need to improve dramatically if they want to escape relegation.
"We are really disappointed with the performance," he said. "We came here with what we thought was a competitive side and were drilled. I don't know why. Sometimes it happens. We have to look at ourselves and regroup.
"We have to win two or three games and put in better performances than today, otherwise our position will be justified. We have been in the Premiership since it began and we want that to continue. We will fight tooth and nail."
Leicester's Niall Morris was part of a Tigers' back-line that caused Sale Sharks' problems throughout the match © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Martin Gillingham looks ahead to what he believes is the most remarkable ever climax to the league phase of the Top 14
With just two rounds left in the regular season, we look at the prospects of the teams taking part in the Championship play-offs
Joe Simpson talks to Charlie Morgan about loss, Wasps and being England's game-breaker
It is 100 years this week since the last international match played in Europe before the outbreak of World War One. Rewind remembers the fixture's longest-living survivor