In the end, Leicester made easy work of Sale in this Group B match at Welford Road last night to reach the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup. However, they made desperately hard work of the first half after which they led 10-3. But after the interval they found their fluency and scored three tries, two of them converted by Andy Goode, to run out comfortable winners.
Marcelo Loffreda, Leicester's head coach, said: "We had to play a kicking game and for the most part it worked. I was very content with how we played, especially in the conditions."
Within three minutes, the Tigers were ahead. Geordan Murphy delivered the telling pass for Johne Murphy to score the opening try, which Goode converted. The rain was bucketing down as Sale made an effort to erase the deficit.
Luke McAlister went some way towards it with a penalty as for the first half an hour there was nothing much in it. At the line-out it was virtually equal until the Tigers set off on a roll towards the Sale posts. When halted, they were awarded a five-metre scrum. This led to a penalty which Goode converted to make it 10-3, with a minute of the half to be played. If either side were going to make it to a semi-final appearance in March, they would have to quicken the pace and put more energy into their support play.
The second half began with Andy Goode slanting a drop at goal wide of the left upright. No matter, when Martin Corry set the replacement full-back Sam Vesty free, Vesty made for the line, linking up with Goode to put Dan Hipkiss across. Goode converted.
But just as he had attempted to before the break, McAlister was away and this time successfully touched down in the left corner. Charlie Hodgson's conversion was off target. McAlister looks a fine prospect and when he settles in, the All Black centre could do some damage.
It was now nearly all Leicester. Corry almost increased their lead, the Tigers captain coming up inches short of the line. Goode added a second penalty to make it 20-8 and time was running out for Sale.
It ran out when Goode found Tom Varndell on his shoulder, and the former converted the try. Within two minutes Tom Croft was free to grab a fourth try and earn a bonus point.
Leicester: Tries Murphy, Hipkiss, Varndell, Croft; Penalty Goode 2; Conversions Goode 3. Sale: Try McAlister; Penalty McAlister
Leicester: G Murphy (S Vesty, h-t); J Murphy, O Smith, D Hipkiss, T Varndell; A Goode, F Murphy; M Ayerza, B Kayser (G Chuter, 63), J White (A Morano, 72), L Deacon, B Kay (J Hamilton, 38), M Corry (captain), L Abraham, J Crame (T Croft, 61).
Sale: M Cueto; J Laharrague, L McAlister, R Keil (R Wigglesworth, 10-14), R Lamont; C Hodgson (C Mayor, 72), S Martens (R Wigglesworth, 62); L Faure, S Lawson (S Bruno, 63), E Roberts (S Turner, 38), I Fernandez-Lobbe (D Schofield, 63), C Day, J White (capt), M Lund, N Bonner-Evans (J Jones, 63).
Referee: C White (Cheltenham).Reuse content