The ABC club hit overdrive at Welford Road last night and Sale, unbeaten since October but unaccustomed to encountering a front row of such raw aggression, finally ran out of gas. In fact, they looked as though they had been turned over by a dumper truck, such was the heavy-duty punishment dished out by Graham Rowntree, Richard Cockerill and Darren Garforth.
If Sale were not scrummaged into oblivion, it was a close-run thing. Cockerill, who would probably cover the pitch even more quickly were it not for the fact that he wastes 50 per cent of his energy informing the opposition how useless they are, was nevertheless spectacularly effective while Garforth, who tends to shine against all but the strongest of loose- head scrummagers, caused all sorts of mayhem in the thick of the forward exchanges.
And behind them, Joel Stransky was worth an entire alphabet of superlatives all to himself. The South African stand-off eased the Tigers home with a majestic contribution from the set of golf clubs concealed in his right boot. Stransky kicked goals from everywhere, finishing with seven in succession from eight attempts.
It was a raw encounter, to say the least. Sale, oozing confidence under the forthright leadership of John Mitchell, their player-coach, and Jim Mallinder, their highly capable full-back and captain, travelled down the M6 with victory in mind - not always the case when sides venture into the Tigers' lair - and despite the shellacking they were forced to take in the scrums, they competed for the whole 80 minutes.
Adrian Hadley asked plenty of questions of the Leicester midfield and with Dewi Morris close to his best at scrum-half, the visitors could draw on a force of nature rather than a mere rugby player. Yet Leicester's iron defence, bloody-minded in the extreme, gave not an inch, and with Stransky doing the business from deep in his own half as well as at the other end, the game was always just out of the visitors' reach.
There was only one try, a penalty score on 28 minutes awarded by the referee, Ashley Rowden, after the Sale front row had committed all manner of transgressions at a retreating scrum close to their line. The conversion from in front of the posts hardly tested Stransky but there were other kicks, from either touchline, that were sent spiralling over with equal ease.
Leicester: Try Penalty try; Conversion Stransky; Penalties Stransky 6. Sale: Penalties Mannix 3.
Leicester: J Liley (G Austin, 69); S Hackney, C Joiner, W Greenwood, L Lloyd; J Stransky, A Healey; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), N Fletcher (R Field, 64), J Wells, W Johnson, N Back.
Sale: J Mallinder (capt); D Rees, J Baxendell, A Hadley, T Beim; S Mannix, D Morris; P Winstanley (M Driver, 67), S Diamond, A Smith, J Fowler, R McCartney (A Morris, 67), D Erskine, J Mitchell, D O'Grady.
Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).
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