Castrogiovanni to the fore as Tigers launch fightback

Sale 13 Leicester 34
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The Independent Online

For 40 minutes under the floodlights at Stockport last night it was anything but neat.

Then, with a try-scoring blaze midway through the second half, the Tigers managed to find their Premiership feet.

Trailing 13-3 at the break, Leicester got into their stride after the interval. Big time. They were already getting on top when Martin Castrogiovanni was summoned from the bench after 55 minutes but the dynamic bulk of the Italian tighthead prop gave them the momentum to claim a second win of the domestic league season and start the climb from the depths of the table.

Castro's role in the revolution included a five-point contribution. There were tries from two other World Cup returnees – Toby Flood and Marcos Ayerza – and also one from Alesani Tuilagi, leaving Richard Cockerill's men with a bonus point win.

"A massive victory," Cockerill, Leicester's director of rugby, called it. "The players got themselves into a hole and they dug themselves out of it."

The visitors got themselves off to a decent enough start, Flood landing a 10th-minute penalty, but it was Sale who made the bulk of the first-half running. Indeed, it took the bulk of Thomas "the Tank Engine" Waldrom to derail Rob Miller when the home full-back was released on the left by the nifty Scotland No 8 Richie Vernon.

There was also a close call when Dwayne Peel, Sale's former Lion of a scrum-half, dabbed a grubber into the right corner. Geordan Murphy hesitated and Tom Brady dotted the ball down, only for the television match official to rule that the Sale wing had ventured into touch.

It proved to be a temporary reprieve. Nick MacLeod found his kicking feet, banging over two penalties. Then, after Leicester 's Argentinian centre Horacio Agulla was pinged for not releasing, Peel took a quick tap before feeding the ball on the blindside to Miller, who shipped it on for Brady to jink over on the left.

It was the 22nd try conceded by the Tigers in the 2011-12 Premiership. In the whole of last season they leaked 29. MacLeod compounded the pain, landing the conversion to leave Sale 13-3 to the good at the interval.

It was no less than the home side deserved and they held on to their 10-point advantage when Flood stepped up to push a penalty wide three minutes into the second-half. They also held firm when Flood and Murphy combined to release the bulk of Waldrom on the charge.

In stemming the tide, however, they strayed offside in front of the posts, allowing Flood to peg the score back to 13-6. It was the cue for Steve Diamond to release Andy Powell from bench duty.

The big Welsh No 8 was obliged to fend on the back foot with his pack as the Tigers cranked up the forward pressure. Cockerill sent on Castrogiovanni for Dan Cole and the Buenos Aires-born prop did not take long to make his presence felt.

Castrogiovanni was at the heart of the drive into the right corner that paved the way for Leicester's opening try in the 57th minute. When the ball was released to the backs, Flood fed Tuilagi and the Samoan centre strolled through a gap to the line.

Four minutes later Castrogiovanni did the scoring himself, driving over from a close-range line-out on the right. Flood converted both efforts, then did so again in the 64th minute after taking a feed from replacement scrum-half James Grindal.

The contest was over by then. All was left was for Ayerza to claim the bonus point, the Argentinian prop barging over on the right

Sale: Try: Brady; Conversion: MacLeod; Penalties: MacLeod 2 . Leicester: Tries: A Tuilagi, Castrogiovanni, Flood, Ayerza; Conversions: Flood 4; Penalties: Flood 2

Sale: R Miller; T Brady (W Addison, 71), J Leota, S Tuitupou (capt), M Cueto; N MacLeod, D Peel (W Cliff, 62); V Cobilas (L Imolek, 70), M Jones (J Ward, 50), H Thomas (T Buckley, 57), W Lewaravu (A Powell, 50), K Myall, J Gaskell, D Seymour, R Vernon.

Leicester: G Murphy (capt) (N Morris, 72); S Hamilton, H Agulla, M Smith, A Tuilagi; T Flood (J Staunton, 72), S Harrison (J Grindal, 62); M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 70), G Chuter (T Youngs, 64), D Cole (M Castrogiovanni, 55) G Skivington (E Slater, 62), G Parling, T Croft (S Mafi, 70), J Salvi, T Waldrom.

Referee: A Small (RFU).