Rugby Union: Priceless for Sale

Sale 35 Leicester 21
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LEICESTER have been Sale's bogey team and, until yesterday's sparkling match at Heywood Road, Sale had never beaten the Tigers in either Cup or League. In recent games between the two, the referee has been Sale's bogeyman.

Firstly there was the Pilkington Cup quarter-final in 1995. Sale were clinging to a one-point lead when Leicester were awarded a dubious scrum in Sale's 22-metre area, in front of the posts. Eight months later, referee Ashley Rowden forgot his watch and added on seven minutes' stoppage. This was ample for Leicester, who were out of contention after 80 minutes, to go on to win 16-12.

Then there were those fateful eight days at the end of last season when Leicester drew here to deny Sale a place in the Heineken European Cup before beating them in the most dreary of all Cup finals, at Twickenham, the following Saturday. The unfortunate Brian Campsall had the finger pointed at him for not allowing the game to flow.

Campsall let this game flow all right. But he might again have been Sale's bogeyman when he allowed Martin Johnson to remain on the field after the Leicester and British Lions captain had stamped on Jos Baxendell. But the referee ignored the advice of a touch judge and showed Johnson a yellow instead of a red card. Mercifully, neither the stamping or Campsall's refusal to make th e punishment fit the crime altered the outcome of the game.

Sale were able to end their drought against Leicester because they played much the more inventive and purposeful rugby. Moreover, Sale never allowed themselves to be drawn into a forward contest against Leicester's muscular and abrasive front five.

It was two tries each at half-time, with Leicester just ahead, 17-15. The first forward assault by the Tigers earned a try for Richard Cockerill, who was on the end of an impressive drive. Eric Miller got the next when Sale lost the ball, allowing Jamie Hamilton to make off with it for the Irishman to profit. Kevin Ellis and Baxendell scored Sale's first-half tries, and in harness at half-back the pair varied their options, creating uncertainty in the Leicester midfield whenever they were in possession.

Although Joel Stransky kept Leicester in touch with two penalties after the break, Sale were never threatened , except by Johnson's right boot, and Matt Moore with two and Tom Beim ran further Sale tries to bring an emphatic end to their arid spell against Leicester.

Sale: J Mallinder (capt); M Moore, J Baxendell, C Yates, T Beim; S Howarth, K Ellis; P Winstanley, S Diamond, D Bell, D Baldwin, S Raiwalui, D O'Grady, P Angelsea, D O'Cuinneagain.

Leicester: M Horak; A Healey, W Greenwood (L Lloyd 48), S Potter, C Joiner; J Stransky, J Hamilton; G Rowntree (P Freshwater 71), R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F Van Heerden, E Miller (P Gustard 66), W Johnson, N Back.

Referee: B Campsall (Halifax).