Saint-André's big-game hunters bag prized Tigers

Sale 26 - Leicester 19
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The Independent Online

When Philippe Saint-Andre took over as director of rugby midway through last season, he said he wanted more animals in his team. Well, he hasn't turned Stockport into a safari park just yet, but he has brought Sébastien Chabal and Sililo Martens into his squad and both brought some bear-like qualities to the cause. With a better marksman, this would have turned into a Tiger shoot.

When Philippe Saint-Andre took over as director of rugby midway through last season, he said he wanted more animals in his team. Well, he hasn't turned Stockport into a safari park just yet, but he has brought Sébastien Chabal and Sililo Martens into his squad and both brought some bear-like qualities to the cause. With a better marksman, this would have turned into a Tiger shoot.

Well before the end of an exhilarating first half, in which Sale bagged three tries, the Sharks would have been 23 points clear if Mike Hercus had been on target. But the United States outside-half missed with three penalties, two conversions and a dropped goal, and it wasn't until Charlie Hodgson appeared after the break that Sale were able to convert their superior attacking flair into points and a well-deserved victory.

Where the Sharks pack were considered a touch lightweight last term, their forwards will be no pushover this campaign if Chabal and Sébastien Bruno get their way. Chabal was man of the match, thanks to a dynamic, all-action performance which had Saint-André drooling. "When we have the ball we can play some great rugby," said Saint-André. "We have more depth now and Chabal, Bruno and Martens bring us more physicality."

They did that, though with Hercus so off-colour with the boot Leicester were within four points of the Sharks at the break. Their only try was scored by Daryl Gibson, which was the only time they looked capable of opening up the home defence. The Tigers thought they had another try when Darren Morris set up a rolling maul for Graham Rowntree to cross, only for Bryan Redpath to prevent him grounding the ball. Redpath's next intervention was equally important when he stepped out of Austin Healey's tackle for a smart try. Jason Robinson had already crossed and Mark Cueto scored with a trademark try.

With Andy Goode adding two drop-goals to the conversion of Gibson's try, and then opening the second half with two penalties, Leicester were ahead for the first time in the match. While they tried playing it meaner and tighter - there were no more tries - Leicester were only just in the hunt in the final quarter as Hodgson kicked them out of it with two penalties and a dropped goal.

Sale: Tries Robinson, Redpath, Cueto; Conversions Hercus; Penalties Hodgson 2 Drop goal Hodgson. Leicester: Try Gibson Conversion Goode Penalties Goode 2 Drop goal Goode 2.

Sale: J Robinson (capt); M Cueto, J Baxendell, R Todd, S Hanley; M Hercus (C Hodgson h-t), B Redpath (S Martens 59); T Woodman, S Bruno (A Titterrell 59), B Stewart (A Sheridan 44), D Schofield (C Jones 57), C Day, J White (P Caillet 84), M Lund, S Chabal.

Leicester: G Murphy; A Healey (S Rabeni 56) L Lloyd, (O Smith 57), D Gibson, J Holtby (A Healey 68); A Goode, H Ellis; G Rowntree, G Chuter, D Morris (J White 44), M Johnson (capt), B Kay (L Deacon 68), B Deacon (L Abraham 73), W Skinner, M Corry.

Referee: D Pearson (Ashington).

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