Leicester moved alongside Bath at the head of the Courage Championship last night but their defeat of depleted opposition leaves the leaders still with a superiority in points difference of 52 with only two to play.
It was a thoroughly fraught and sometimes unpleasant occasion with an all-out conflagration between the packs midway through the first half resulting in yellow cards for Dean Richards and Dylan O'Grady. It was the England's No 8's third of this season, the first two having resulted in a fortnight's suspension last October.
Sale came to Welford Road in trepidation in the absence of Paul Turner and half a dozen others, and their recent form did not suggest they could prevent the conclusive total Leicester needed. The reality was otherwise. Though Leicester scored a try after nine minutes by Neil Back - contentiously awarded after an apparent knock-on by Stuart Potter - they were fortunate still to lead at half-time.
Sale missed the tactical genius of the injured Turner but his tricks have rubbed off on his comrades and the subtlety of their passing left Leicester's miserly defence exposed, though all Sale had for 40 minutes of high endeavour was a penalty by Liley - Rob, that is, his elder brother John being absent injured.
Liley senior would undoubtedly have added more of the points Leicester knew they required. Jez Harris, who used to be preferred to Liley as goal- kicker, missed three penalties and kicked only the one, though a try by Aadel Kardooni closely followed half-time to take Leicester past the club's season's record of 1,109 points.
From here you would have expected Leicester to pile on the pressure but they did so only after Sale had produced a fantastic try launched near their line by Liley and scored by Jim Mallinder.
Leicester: Tries Kardooni 3, Back, Richards; Conversions Harris 2; Penalty Harris. Sale: Try Mallinder; Conversion Liley; Penalty Liley.
Leicester: J Harris; S Hackney, S Potter, R Robinson, A McAdam; N Malone, A Kardooni; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson, R Field, J Wells, D Richards (capt), N Back.
Sale: J Mallinder (capt); D Rees, J Baxendell, G Higginbotham, C Yates (N Ryan, 68); R Liley, M Warr; P Smith, L Hewson, A Smith, J Fowler, D Erskine, D O'Grady, N Ashurst, A Morris.
Referee: J Wallis (Bridgwater).
Michael Dods, ever-present in Scotland's Five Nations' team and scorer of all their 19 points against France, has been left out of the summer tour to New Zealand.Reuse content