Leeds 20 Sale 34: Thomas too good for brave Leeds

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Lee Thomas was Sale's star at Headingley yesterday, scoring a try either side of the break and kicking two conversions while deputising for the injured All Black Luke McAlister. Sale scored four tries for a bonus point; Leeds, with three tries, played extremely testing rugby but won nothing.

Leeds' director of rugby, Stuart Lancaster, said: "Sure, we can win at Wasps next weekend. This was a positive performance. With fewer mistakes we can triumph and there is no doubt about that."

His opposite number, Philippe Saint-Andr, said: "Lee Thomas was probably the best player on the pitch. Luke was not available, having suffered a knock against Leicester, but Lee was brilliant."

Leeds opened the scoring when James Brooks opened up the Sale backs with a clever grubber kick which Tommy McGee scooped up to stroll across for a try. Leigh Hinton, who had missed an earlier penalty, converted and added a penalty to make it 10-0.

Sale were beginning to match Leeds up front, though the big Norwegian lock Erik Lund was getting the better of their line-out. Charlie Hodgson pulled three points back with a penalty and kicked a second when Leeds went offside in front of the posts.

Sale then camped on the Leeds line, the ball being moved with speed for Thomas to cross on the left. Hodgson converted and at half-time it was 13-10 to the visitors.

Leeds began the second half on Sale's line but the visiting forwards were up for it. The Leeds pack, as in the first half, were content to spoil. Thomas's second try and his own conversion threatened to put Sale out of sight but Tom Biggs scored a try for 20-15.

Hodgson then aimed a cross-kick to the right corner. Biggs and Hinton covered but Chris Mayor scored in the corner. Thomas converted. Biggs later made amends, with a second try, though not before Oriol Ripol earned the bonus point.

Leeds: Tries McGee, Biggs 2; Conversion Hinton; Penalty Hinton. Sale: Tries Thomas 2, Mayor, Ripol; Conversions Hodgson, Thomas 2, Laharrague; Penalties Hodgson 2.

Leeds: L Hinton; A Satala, R Vickerman, L Blackett (A Tuilagi, 59), T Biggs; J Brooks (J Hepworth, 67), J Bedford (D Edwards, 67); M MacDonald (M Cusack, 69), V Ma'asi (J Parkes, 69), T McGee (A Hopcroft, 59), S Hooper (capt), E Lund, J Dunbar, R Oakley (C Clark, 15), A Balding.

Sale: J Laharrague; M Cueto, C Mayor, L Thomas, O Ripol; C Hodgson (R Keil, 75), R Wigglesworth (S Martens, 76); L Faur (A Sheridan, 49), S Lawson (S Bruno, 49), S Turner (E Lewis-Roberts, 60), C Jones, B Cockbain (S Cox, 75), J White (capt), M Lund, S Chabal (J-M Fernandez-Lobbe, 60).

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).

l Leicester, the champions, beat London Irish 25-17 at Welford Road on Saturday. Sam Vesty, Seru Rabeni, Martin Castrogiovanni and Julian White scored the Tigers' tries, Sailosi Tagicakibau scoring a try and Delon Armitage kicking four penalties for the Exiles. Leicester are fifth in the Premiership, a point behind Sale.