Tigers meet match in Sale mire

Sale 3 Leicester 3

By Paul Stephens
Saturday 07 February 2004 01:00

For the better part of two hours the suspicion and speculation which have dogged these clubs throughout the week was suspended while they played some rugby in appalling conditions in front of another sellout attendance at Edgeley Park.

Leicester remain tight-lipped about a successor as director of rugby to Dean Richards who was led to the Welford Road exit last Monday, while the rumour-mongers have it that Sale's head coach, Jim Mallinder, has already been interviewed for the Tigers' job, though no decision on a replacement for Richards has yet been made.

Mallinder, who will be out of contract at the end of May, is saying nothing. However, despite being offered a new deal by the club's owner Brian Kennedy, Mallinder has yet to sign. Meanwhile, Mallinder's deputy, Steve Diamond, is on his way to Saracens. There are some juicy bones to chew on at both clubs, whose first priority is to climb the Premiership table to secure a place in next season's Heineken Cup.

As for the game, well, on a pitch which had standing water on it, and in driving rain, this was a night for prosaic rather than pretty rugby, though there were some rare glimpses of skill, especially from Jason Robinson and Sale's debutant outside-half, Mike Hercus, who had such a good World Cup for the United States, and who slotted effortlessly into the injured Charlie Hodgson's role with an assured performance.

Surprisingly, the Leicester forwards were well matched in the tight and loose by the Sale eight, who were on their game all evening.

In conditions like these the outcome was always likely to turn on mistakes and there was an abundance of them. Typically, Sale's best chance of a try came after only five minutes when the winger Chris Mayor hacked a loose ball forward to the Leicester line only to fumble in the greasy conditions.

Yet neither side was prepared to yield. Hercus and Andy Goode had exchanged first-half penalties and neither team deserved to lose. Goode was forced to go off just before the break with a leg injury.

The draw moves Sale, who ended a three-match losing run up to fifth in the Premiership table, while Leicester still have plenty to do if they are to salvage something from what has turned into a desperately disappointing campaign.

Sale: Penalty Hercus. Leicester: Penalty: Goode.

Sale: J Robinson (capt); C Mayor, J Baxendell, G Bond, S Hanley; M Hercus, R Wigglesworth; K Yates, M Cairns, S Turner (B Stewart, 59), C Day (H Perrett, 73), D Schofield, J White, M Lund (J Roddam, 17-27), C Jones.

Leicester: A Goode (G Geldeerblom, 37); O Smith, L Lloyd, D Gibson, F Tuilagi; J van der Westhuyzen, H Ellis; G Rowntree (R Nebbett, 44-54), D West (J Richards, 63), D Morris, M Johnson (capt), B Kay, M Corry, N Back, H Tuilagi (W Johnson, 63).

Referee: A Rowden (Thatcham, Berks).

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