Sale hang on to down Tigers
November 28, 2008
Lionel Faure crashes in to the Leicester defence during a hard-fought win for Sale
© Getty Images
Sale reasserted their title credentials with a hard-earned victory to leapfrog rivals Leicester and climb into second place in the Premiership. The Sharks had lost their previous four outings in three different competitions at Edgeley Park, but tries from Mark Cueto and Mathew Tait helped to them establish a 17-0 lead after 30 minutes.
Leicester rallied strongly after the break and touched down through Aaron Mauger in the 47th minute but Sale held on after wing David Doherty was sin-binned in the final quarter and Rory Lamont added a third try shortly before the final whistle. A 13-12 success at Wasps last weekend breathed new life into Sale's Premiership campaign after their most recent home defeat - a woeful 17-9 reverse against Worcester - and this latest victory was another massive fillip to Philippe Saint-Andre's men.
Leicester missed the first opportunity to get points on the board when fly-half Derick Hougaard failed to convert a penalty from distance. The pendulum quickly swung in Sale's favour and they led in the 10th minute with a breakaway try from Cueto.
The former England wing seized on a mistake by Leicester full-back Geordan Murphy just inside his own half, collected possession and advanced forward at pace down the right flank. His speed took him clear of Leicester's backline and he raced 50 metres to touch down for a try converted by Luke McAlister.
Two minutes later, McAlister spurned the chance to put Sale further ahead when he drove a penalty wide of the posts, but the momentum remained with the home team. Driven forward by a dominant pack, and with Charlie Hodgson pulling the strings at fly-half, the Sharks claimed their second try in the 18th minute.
Hodgson found Cueto with a neat short offload on the right side of the field, around 20 metres out, and although the winger's progress was halted, Sale's forwards showed formidable power to drive over the line and allow Tait to ground the ball. McAlister again added the extras and then claimed a penalty to send Sale 17-0 ahead in the 29th minute before Leicester finally got off the mark with a penalty from Julien Dupuy five minutes later.
The visitors began to gain a foothold as the interval approached, forcing Sale back into their own half, but there was still time for McAlister to miss another penalty before the whistle. Hodgson, despite his influence, was withdrawn after half-time after complaining of flu symptoms which had affected him in the build-up to the game.
He was replaced by Dwayne Peel, who went to scrum-half while Richard Wigglesworth deputised for Hodgson at 10. Leicester, to their credit, came back strongly after the break and Mauger found the space to weave his way through a static Sale defence to touch down in the 47th minute.
Dupuy converted with precision to cut the gap to 10 points with over half an hour remaining but McAlister claimed his second penalty on the hour mark. Sale were forced to dig deep when Doherty was shown a yellow card with 13 minutes remaining but Lamont was on hand to hack forward a loose ball from the halfway line and touch down in the last minute for a try converted by McAlister.
After tonight's vital win, Sale boss Philippe Saint-Andre said, "I think we played very well in the first half and we had opportunities to maybe score another try and also missed two penalties. We had a lot of chances. But in the second half we didn't have the ball enough, and Leicester are a good team.
"They attacked the line and came back strongly, but the defence was fantastic. We scored three tries, denied Leicester a bonus point and have now won six of our eight Premiership matches this season. That's not too bad. The first half was a very, very good performance - the best in the Premiership this season."
The only 'negative' for Sale was the recurrence of a hamstring to Mathew Tait, who was withdrawn and may now miss next week's clash against Montauban in the Heineken Cup. Saint-Andre, who also withdrew fly-half Charlie Hodgson at half-time after he complained of flu symptoms, said, "Tait felt his hamstring again. He's getting better each week but he's still not 100%. He's been struggling for the last few weeks and he's still not at full speed."
Leicester head coach Heyneke Meyer was left to reflect on a below-par first-half performance, in which Sale were dominant. Although the Tigers rallied, it was ultimately to no avail - and it was significant that the hosts finished the stronger when Lamont raced clear to touch down. Meyer said, "We always had to chase the game, because we weren't smart enough in the first half. In the second half we played most of the rugby. But when you don't take your chances and can't defend turnovers you're always going to be chasing the game.
"We expect to win every single game that we play. We're playing much better rugby at the moment - but ultimately it is what is on the scoreboard that counts."
Sale: Lamont, Cueto, M. Tait, McAlister, Doherty, Hodgson, Wigglesworth, Faure, M. Jones, Roberts, Chabal, Schofield, White, Briggs, Fernandez Lobbe.
Replacements: Bell for M. Tait (59), Peel for Hodgson (40), O'Donnell for Faure (77), Fearns for M. Jones (74), Turner for Roberts (62), Cockbain for Schofield (72). Not Used: Tuilagi.
Sin Bin: Doherty (60).
Leicester: G. Murphy, J. Murphy, Rabeni, Mauger, Smith, Hougaard, Dupuy, Ayerza, Chuter, Cole, Corry, Kay, B. Deacon, Moody, Crane.
Replacements: Hamilton for Hougaard (44), Kayser for Chuter (57), Wentzel for Kay (66), Newby for B. Deacon (50). Not Used: Bonorino, B. Youngs, Varndell.
Ref: Chris White (RFU).
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter