Goode makes late case for Lions place

Leicester 45 Sale 15
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The Independent Online

Had this match been staged a month ago, and been watched by the British and Irish Lions' head coach, Sir Clive Woodward, Andy Goode's sure-fire kicking would have made him a cast-iron certainty for the tour to New Zealand which begins in early June. When the squad is announced today, it will be no surprise if Goode's name is not included. That, according to his head coach at Leicester, John Wells, would be a considerable oversight.

Had this match been staged a month ago, and been watched by the British and Irish Lions' head coach, Sir Clive Woodward, Andy Goode's sure-fire kicking would have made him a cast-iron certainty for the tour to New Zealand which begins in early June. When the squad is announced today, it will be no surprise if Goode's name is not included. That, according to his head coach at Leicester, John Wells, would be a considerable oversight.

"Andy deserves his chance," said Wells after Goode had turned in an immaculate performance against one of the Tigers' supposed challengers for a Premiership final appearance at Twickenham next month. "But I think what will happen is that the Lions management will take Jonny Wilkinson, despite very real concerns over his fitness, when it's Andy who should be preparing to face the All Blacks."

Given that Sale's Charlie Hodgson is also suffering a crisis of confidence, along with a niggling groin injury, Woodward's options for the No 10 shirt are diminishing fast. Hodgson was missing at a packed Welford Road on Saturday, but it is doubtful whether he would have made much difference, for the Sale pack were distinctly second best and most of the 50-50 ball went to the Tigers, who gobbled up almost everything on offer with Martin Corry, George Chuter, Lewis Moody and Martin Johnson the hungriest of the bunch.

Starved of any decent rations, Sale only prospered when Mark Cueto opened the scoring with a typically deceptive run for a smart try. Cueto was to scramble over for a second late in the second half, though by then the Tigers were out of shooting range, Goode having bagged a solo try and five conversions.

There was more to follow, with Goode's right boot converting tries by Alesana Tuilagi and Tom Varndell, to conclude a defeat which consigned Sale to fourth place in the table and probably needing to win their final two games - at home to Gloucester on Friday and at Harlequins on the last Saturday of league action - to be sure of finishing no lower and thus to guarantee a Heineken Cup place next season.

Before then they will want to get the memory of this bruising defeat out of their system. In a 13-minute spell in the first half their defensive radar went awry, conceding tries to Moody, Leon Lloyd, Goode and Martin Johnson, making it 31-10 at the break. By then, Sale were already broken.

Leicester: Tries Moody, Lloyd, Goode, M Johnson, A Tuilagi, Varndell; Conversions Goode 6; Drop goal Goode. Sale: Tries Cueto 2; Conversion Hercus; Penalty Hercus.

Leicester: G Murphy; A Tuilagi, L Lloyd (O Smith, 55), D Gibson (S Vesty, 74), T Varndell; A Goode, S Bemand (H Ellis, 74); G Rowntree, G Chuter (J Buckland, 78), D Morris, M Johnson (capt), L Deacon, W Johnson (H Tuilagi, 48; J Rawson, 65), L Moody, M Corry.

Sale: J Robinson (capt); M Cueto, C Rhys Jones, R Todd (J Payne, 68), S Hanley; M Hercus (D Blair, 58), B Redpath (S Martens, 58); A Sheridan, A Titterrell (S Bruno, 58), B Stewart (S Turner, 52), C Jones (P Anglesea, 81), D Schofield, J White, M Lund, S Chabal (I Fernandez Lobbe, 58).

Referee: D Rose (Warwickshire).

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