The Leicester faithful must have thought that Austin Healey's return, after almost four months out with an Achilles injury, might spark something special against Sale, especially as it took Healey only eight minutes to stamp his mark on the game with the opening try. While it seems unthinkable that Healey will not feature in Dean Richards' plans for next weekend's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Munster, it was Geordan Murphy who really caught the eye as the Tigers opened up a 25-0 lead after 38 minutes.
Leicester's unmatchable rucking and appetite for the ball in the loose was of a much higher order than Sale's, and if they had not gone off the boil after Freddie Tuilagi scored the try which confirmed the Tigers' bonus point seven minutes into the second half, defeat for Sale might have been much more painful.
It was spiky from the start and, when Pete Anglesea and Dorian West went head to head, Anglesea was sent to the sin bin, during which time Leicester scored their second try. Leicester, determined to make their numerical superiority count, worked Murphy into the right corner. So, in the first quarter Leicester had made only two visits to the Sale 22, but they made each one pay.
Healey's next trick was to kick long for Murphy. The Irishman juggled with the ball momentarily before handing to Lloyd for try number three. Stimpson converted both and the Tigers were coasting. But they allowed their concentration to drop, Bryan Redpath sneaked the ball from the base of a scrum, for Graeme Bond to cross. Then, in stoppage time, Dean Schofield pouched Mark Cueto's overhead pass and swatted Healey away to score the unlikeliest of tries. Jos Baxendell two conversions at least gave Sale some hope.
Once Tuilagi had crossed there was not much of that in Sale's corner, but they kept plugging away, Baxendell kicked two penalties, though that was as far as they got before Stimpson finished them off with his third penalty.
Leicester: Tries Healey, Murphy, Lloyd, Tuilagi. Conversions Stimpson 2. Penalties Stimpson 3. Sale: Tries Bond, Schofield. Conversions Baxendell 2. Penalties Baxendell 2.
Leicester: T Stimpson; G Murphy, L Lloyd, F Tuilagi, S Booth; A Healey, T Tierney; P Freshwater, D West, D Garforth (F Tournaire, 62), M Johnson (capt), M Corry, J Kronfeld, N Back, W Johnson (A Balding, 62).
Sale: J Robinson; M Cueto, G Bond, D Harris (V Going, 57), S Hanley; J Baxendell, B Redpath (capt); K Yates (J Thorp, 66), A Titterrell (C Marais, 66), S Turner, C Jones (I Fullarton, 66), D Schofield (R Wilks, 70), P Davies, S Pinkerton, P Anglesea.
Referee: S Lander (Warrington).
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