Tigers climb into top four
January 1, 2012
Leicester propelled themselves into the top four with a patch win over Sale%]
Leicester climbed into the Aviva Premiership play-off places with a hard-fought 28-23 victory over Sale Sharks at Welford Road on Sunday.
The Sharks were in danger of being over-run when they fell 17-0 behind after only 20 minutes, but they showed spirit to fight back and had Leicester nerves jangling towards the end before a late Toby Flood penalty secured the Tigers their fourth Premiership win in a row. Leicester will reflect on their failure to collect a bonus point after being in total control for much of the match.
Sale were hit by the late withdrawals of forwards Tony Buckley and Andrei Ostrikov, both suffering from illness, and within two minutes of the start they received two further injury blows. In attempting a tackle Henry Thomas and David Seymour clashed heads and both had to leave the field with the latter in a very groggy state.
The Tigers declined a number of early kickable penalties and that decision was rewarded when after only six minutes, following a scrum collapse, they were awarded a penalty try which Flood converted before the outside-half failed with a 45-metre penalty attempt.
Flood soon made amends for his miss to create Leicester's second try. He made an excellent midfield break to send Billy Twelvetrees away, and his pass gave Geordan Murphy a simple try, which Flood converted.
Seymour could not return, but after being patched up Thomas reappeared for the visitors - just in time to see Nick Macleod miss narrowly with a penalty shot from halfway before Flood extended Leicester's lead with a simple penalty.
Against the run of play, Sale created a fine try. Replacement Onosa'i Auva'a stormed away and was well supported by his two locks, Kearnan Myall and Fraser McKenzie, with the latter collecting the try which Macleod converted. Macleod then added a penalty.
Try time for Leicester's Geordan Murphy © Getty Images
Leicester lost Martin Castrogiovanni, who limped off with a leg injury, but Sale's woes continued when the unlucky Thomas was helped off with a leg injury and in unfavourable circumstances it was a creditable performance by the visitors to restrict the Tigers to a 17-10 advantage at the interval.
Early in the second half Macleod and Flood exchanged penalties as Sale continued to grow into the game against a strangely hesitant Tigers. Flood and Ben Youngs were content to kick possession away, not always to any great effect, and it was against the run of play when Leicester extended their lead with Twelvetrees and Matt Smith combining cleverly to put Alesana Tuilagi over.
A resilient Sale were not to be denied and produced the try of the match. Excellent handling skills from James Gaskell and Andy Powell created enough space for Rob Miller to outpace the cover defence for the score, which Macleod converted with a superb touchline kick.
Sensing they could be on the receiving end of a shock defeat, the Leicester pack raised their game and Flood calmed the nerves with his third penalty, before with the last kick of the game Macleod dropped a goal to secure his side a deserved bonus point.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter
While the Super Rugby season enters the all-important knockout phase, elsewhere pre-season training never looked so enjoyable. We round-up the best snaps in our Week in Pictures
"Our scrums and lineouts are sometimes not that good but our men are very brave." Ken Borland finds that rugby is on the rise in Senegal
Laurie Fisher talks about the Brumbies and Gloucester, and provides revealing thoughts on the player involvement during the glory days in Canberra