Leicester Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill admits his side took their eye off the ball in crucial moments as they slipped to defeat at Sale Sharks.
Mike Phillips, Johnny Leota and Paolo Odogwu all crossed over in the first half as Sale took a 24-20 lead into the break despite a Peter Betham try-double.
And after a Jekyll and Hyde performance from replacement prop Halani Aulika – who scored a try, gave away a penalty and was also yellow carded – Sharks went on to secure a third successive win over Leicester for the first time in 40 years.
Adam Thompstone’s sumptuous finish had offered momentary hope for the Tigers, but Cockerill says the battle was lost as the error count continued to rack up.
“There was poor execution, we’ve got to look after the ball. We coughed up soft tries and were, on a couple of occasions, very easy to score against,” he said.
“Away from home, when you’re in control of the game, you need to be better than that and we weren’t. It’s a concern that we keep conceding tries like that and it’s costing us games.
“We’re working on everything but players make poor decisions and you get caught, and it happened at least twice. We got caught too easily and are making poor, fundamental errors.”
Leicester remain in the top four – ahead of today’s action at least – but Cockerill concedes the mistakes must be stamped out and fast.
“Phillips’ try seemed very easy,” said Cockerill. “No one went to the breakdown and he ran through the middle of us and scored.
“With the second, we got exposed at the back of the lineout where people weren’t doing their jobs.
“Credit to Sale, they played well and they deserved the win but it’s two steps forwards and two steps back.”
It was just another thriller for Sale after they came back from behind to clinch a 34-34 draw at Worcester Warriors last week.
And director of rugby Steve Diamond was left reflecting on another fast and furious finish that got his pulse racing once again.
“It was a really good win and we got the bonus point as well to add to the joy,” he said. “We worked hard for it – it was a fantastic game of rugby if you weren’t involved.
“I was about to explode with five minutes to go, but fair crack to the lads as they stuck it out.”
Sale: McGuigan; Edwards, Addison, Leota, Odogwu; MacGinty, Phillips; Harrison (Lewis-Roberts 54), Briggs, Longbottom (Aulika 43); Evans, Mills (Ostrikov 54); Neild, Seymour (Lund 65), Beaumont
Not used: Pearce, Mitchell, Mugford, Bedlow
Leicester: Veainu; Thompstone, Betham, Tait, Brady; Williams, B Youngs (Kitto 64); Genge (Mulipola 57), McGuigan (T Youngs 41), Cole; Slater (Kitchener 18), Fitzgerald; Williams, O’Connor, McCaffrey
Not used: Bateman, Barrow, Worth, Smith
Tries: Phillips, Leota, Odogwu, Aulika
Conversions: Addison 4
Penalties: Addison 2
Tries: Betham 2, Thompstone
Conversions: Williams 3
Penalties: Williams 3
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys