Tigers roar but lose bite with White facing ban

Leicester 37 Sale 31

Julian White belongs to that union of front row heavies who resolutely include a punch on the nose among their rules of engagement. Line up as many television cameras, disciplinary beaks and assistant referees as you like, and White will not change.

When his well-aimed right-hander knocked over his Sale counterpart and England colleague Andrew Sheridan after 21 minutes of this uproarious Premiership match, White received his fourth red card since 2002 and is likely to receive a long ban. Sheridan's part in the incident may attract the attention of the independent citing officer.

Given that Leicester's injury list is as long as White's rap sheet – he was also cited and suspended twice last season – the Tigers' acting head coach, Richard Cockerill, might have been spitting tacks. Instead he put a brave, cauliflower-eared face on it, which reminded you that "Cockers" – 38 years old to White's 35 – is not long retired from the scrum himself.

"We've got Martin Castrogiovanni and Dan Cole to cover the [tighthead] position," Cockerill said. "He [White] will get the punishment that fits the crime." Geordan Murphy, Leicester's captain for the day, said: "I think Julian's unlucky. He knows how to throw a punch and he knows how to land one. The man just has a knack. If he'd have missed, it would have been a penalty and a warning. If I threw 10 of those I'd miss and I'd get laughed at."

Someone voted Castrogiovanni the man of the match, which was a bit rich as Sheridan drew a penalty out of him at the first scrum following White's departure, and there were uncontested scrums for the final 12 minutes.

Worthier candidates abounded as Leicester, with Toby Flood and Sam Vesty sharing the fly-half duties skillfully, won a sixth Premiership match in seven. Sale scored three attractive tries, two of them by Mark Cueto in front of the Lions coach Ian McGeechan, and with two home matches remaining they retain an outside chance of making the top four.

In another England tête-à-tête, Mathew Tait scooted round Tigers' Dan Hipkiss to set up Cueto's second. Earlier, Tait was just a barnacle on Alesana Tuilagi's back as the Samoan treated his parents, visiting from the South Seas, to a trademark battering-ram try.

The Tigers' form reflects well on Cockerill. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," said Murphy. " In his acting role, Cockers is doing a good job so why not just let him keep his acting role?"

Scorers: Leicester: TriesTuilagi, Hamilton 2, Hipkiss, Vesty; Conversions Flood 2, Vesty; Penalties Flood 2. Sale: Tries: Cueto 2, Briggs; Conversions Hodgson 2; Penalties Hodgson 4.

Leicester Tigers: G Murphy (capt); S Hamilton, D Hipkiss, S Vesty, Alesana Tuilagi; T Flood (A Erinle, 16-24), H Ellis (J Dupuy, 58); M Ayerza (D Hemingway, 68), G Chuter, J White, L Deacon, B Kay, T Croft, B Woods, B Pienaar (M Castrogiovanni, 22).

Sale Sharks: N MacLeod; M Cueto, M Tait, R Keil (Anitelea Tuilagi, 68), O Ripol; C Hodgson, D Peel (R Wigglesworth, 73); A Sheridan (L Faure, 68), S Bruno (C Fearns, 61), E Roberts, C Jones, B Cockbain (D Schofield, 51), J White, N Briggs, JM Fernandez Lobbe (capt).

Referee: W Barnes (London).

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