Owen Williams impressed for Leicester Tigers in the absence of Toby Flood
28 December 2013, 05:01 pm ::
By David Jordan
Leicester Tigers 30 Sale Sharks 23
Owen Williams filled in admirably for Toby Flood as Leicester Tigers withstood a second-half fightback from Sale Sharks to climb temporarily back into the top four in the Aviva Premiership.
The Tigers powered into a 20-6 lead at the break thanks to tries from Ed Slater and Adam Thompstone, who should have added a second before the break.
However, Sale hit back with two tries in 11 second-half minutes as Mark Cueto and Charlie Ingall dragged the away side back to within three points at 23-20.
Leicester's forward power saw them re-establish a ten point lead with a converted penalty try and while Joe Ford's fine penalty secured Sale a losing bonus point, the Tigers claimed the win in front of a 24,000 sell-out crowd.
Injury and illness deprived this game of two England fly-halves with Leicester's Flood still sidelined and Danny Cipriani, the Sale No.10, suffering from flu.
Instead it was a Welshman who was handed the platform to shine with Williams, signed from Scarlets in the summer, grasping his chance from the off.
A smart chip got the Tigers going forward before the 21-year-old broke and released the ball for Slater to score, Williams converting.
Williams then added a penalty to put the hosts 10-0 up after ten minutes when Sale were penalised for not rolling away.
Sale then enjoyed some good territory but their attempt to hit back was hindered when Sam Tuitupou was sin binned.
Leicester made the most of the advantage when Thompstone crossed for their second try after a missed pass from Dan Bowden.
Sale were on the board when Nick MacLeod converted a penalty from in front of the posts.
Thompstone looked certain to score his second try and Leicester's third soon after but he knocked on with the line gaping and the score remained 20-3 as Sale were restored to full strength.
Indeed it was the visitors who had the final say on the first-half when MacLeod kicked his second penalty of the match on the stroke of half-time.
The Tigers started the second half on the front foot with Dan Cole making a break into the 22 and eventually the home side extended their lead with another Williams penalty.
Sale attempted to respond through the boot of Rob Miller but the full-back failed with his kick.
However, the Sharks did not have to wait long to narrow the gap as Cueto appeared on the overlap to score his sixth try of the season.
The Sharks revival stepped up a gear with 20 minutes to go when a superb break from James Gaskell allowed winger Ingall to set up a grandstand finish.
Leicester responded by camping themselves down in Sale's 22 with Sharks wing Tom Brady forced to take the ball under his own posts.
A long series of scrums ensued before Leicester were eventually awarded a penalty try and Williams converted before he was replaced, finishing with 15 points.
Sale's replacement fly-half Ford, brother of former Tiger George, successfully kicked a 40-metre penalty to put the visitors back within seven points.
It was enough to earn Sale a bonus point as Leicester's pursuit of a fourth try, and a bonus point, ultimately came up short.