Leicester 19-15 Sale: Tigers end losing run with unconvincing victory over Gallagher Premiership’s bottom club

30 Sep

Leicester piled more misery on the Gallagher Premiership’s bottom side Sale with a narrow 19-15 victory at Welford Road.

The Tigers went into the game having lost their last two league matches but avoided a third when centre Kyle Eastmond went over in the first-half, while George Ford got four penalties and a conversion.

Ford scored 14 of Leicester’s 19 points

Sale took an early lead when wing Marland Yarde rounded off a flowing move, while hooker Rob Webber and substitute Curtis Langdon touched down during the final quarter, but the Sharks are still without a Premiership away win since March and it is 10 years since they triumphed on Leicester soil.

It could, though, have been a different story if scrum-half Will Cliff had not missed all three of his kicks at goal, and a losing bonus point proved scant consolation after they outscored Leicester 3-1 on tries.

The game proved to be a pale shadow of most league games so far this season – high-scoring contests littered with tries – but Leicester will just be relieved to have rediscovered a winning formula.

It was not pretty, and they often had to defend for long periods, yet Leicester jumped above Northampton and Bristol in the table ahead of tackling Saints at Twickenham next Saturday.

Marland Yarde gave the visitors an early lead

Manu Tuilagi missed out for Leicester due to a leg injury, so Eastmond partnered Gareth Owen in midfield, with fit-again Adam Thompstone returning on the wing and England Under-20 international scrum-half Ben White making his first Premiership start.

Webber and lock Andrei Ostrokov returned for Sale, while Sam James replaced AJ MacGinty at fly-half, with James’ brother Luke starting alongside centre colleague Mark Jennings.

And Sale settled quickly, impressively going through attacking phases before Yarde launched a counter-attack and after important contributions by his fellow wing Denny Solomona and full-back Byron McGuigan, the former Harlequins speedster crossed unmarked for a try.

Cliff’s conversion hit the post, but Leicester responded strongly and unlocked Sale’s defence following a smart Owen half-break and clever pass that gave Eastmond his first Tigers try since he joined them from Wasps.

Ford’s conversion edged Leicester ahead, but while there was plenty of attacking intent from both sides, their league positions – both were in the Premiership’s bottom third before kick-off – underpinned two teams striving for confidence.

A Ford penalty nudged Leicester five points clear after 24 minutes, and they looked to have increased their lead when England wing Jonny May sprinted clear from 60 metres, but the final pass to him was rightly ruled forward.

Ford’s second successful penalty opened up an eight-point advantage just before the break, but it was not a half to live long in the memory.

Despite conceding an interval deficit, Sale were far from out of the contest and they went through 17 phases inside Leicester’s 22 at one stage as they strived to reduce their arrears.

It was a tight contest at between two out of form sides

But they were not helped by making numerous mistakes, especially in the lineouts, where misdirected throwing-in twice cost them promising attacking positions.

A forward surge resulted in Webber touching down to keep pressure on Leicester, before Ford completed his penalty hat-trick and then landed a 50-metre kick to seal the points, although Langdon touched down late on to give Sale a point.

Chris Ashton’s England comeback hits huge hurdle with seven-week ban for tip-tackle in Sale Sharks friendly

23 Aug

Chris Ashton’s tentative England comeback has already stalled after he was given a seven-week ban for a tip-tackle made during Sale’s pre-season friendly against Castres last Friday.

Ashton was sent off for the incident involving Rory Kockott, who was also shown a red card, and an independent disciplinary hearing held at Twickenham on Thursday afternoon found him guilty despite the charge being contested.

Ashton will miss Sale’s first six games of the league season as well as England’s training camp in September

Speaking at the launch of the new Gallagher Premiership season before the hearing had started, Sale boss Steve Diamond insisted Ashton’s action was fully justified as it was in “self defence” amid suggestions of eye-gouging.

The suspension means the 31-year-old will miss the first six games of Sale’s league season and England’s training camp in Bristol in late September, robbing him of precious opportunity to impress Eddie Jones.

It is a significant setback that comes in the wake of leaving Toulon for Manchester in order to add to his 39 caps, the last of which was won in 2014, and amid early success in his quest by being picked in Jones’ pre-season training squad.

“It is an important principle of rugby regulation to prevent injury to others,” the hearing’s chairman Richard Whittam said.

“Provocation is not a defence to foul play and lifting a player and dropping that player such that his head makes contact with the ground has the potential to cause serious injury.”

Counting against Ashton at the hearing was the total of 23 weeks he missed in 2016 after being found guilty of biting and making contact with the eye area of an opponent, resulting in an extra week being added to the entry points sanction for the offence of six weeks.

Diamond, however, refused to condemn his marquee signing who must wait until the Challenge Cup clash with Perpignan on October 12 to make his debut.

“I’m p****d off that he got sent off, but it was in extreme circumstances where he defended himself,” Diamond said.

“I’d take a red card for any other Sale player if they defended themselves the way Chris Ashton did.

“If you’re defending yourself on a rugby pitch when things go on and are over and above what we expect then red mist doesn’t come into it.

“It was self-defence I would say. Chris Ashton defended himself as any of you lot would defend yourself.”

Sale claim they were the victims of repeated illegal play by Castres in a 20-17 win in Saint Affrique and while Diamond has been left to deal with the fallout, his only response will be to “not go again”.

“I’ve got seven people unfit to train this week because of it. Brutal. Violence against Sale from Castres,” Diamond said.

“Three red cards, three yellow cards and things that went missing that would be red cards if they were seen by Premiership disciplinarians. Concussion, broken ribs – you name it.

“They didn’t like getting beaten but we took some serious injuries. You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth but I think the officials during the game and afterwards haven’t looked at it with scrutiny it deserved.”

Kockott was also sent off and has been given a ban of only week by the French judiciary, who found him culpable of ‘edginess’.