It all came down to the wire, but hosts Newcastle Falcons won their Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series group for the third year on the bounce to progress to the Ricoh Arena final, with Sale Sharks also joining them on August 7.
With just two points separating all four teams heading into the final two matches, anyone could progress, but eventually Leicester Tigers and Worcester Warriors were edged out in front of 3,825 fans at Kingston Park.
The results mean the Falcons will play Ospreys in the quarter-finals in Coventry next weekend, while Sale will lock horns with Cardiff Blues.
The Sharks were the first team to progress on the day, but they did not get off to an ideal start as they succumbed to a second-half fightback and lost 31-12 to the hosts – with Joel Hodgson, Harrison Orr, Tom Catterick, Dan Marshall, and Dan Temm all crossing after the interval.
Leicester Tigers’ opener was not short on drama either, as they trailed 12-0 early on with Jordan Ainslie and Josh Adams both crossing for Worcester.
But Tigers were ahead before the half-time whistle as first Jordan Olowofela’s successful chip and chase got them on the board, before Tommy Reffell and Freddie Tuilagi both crossed.
Leicester extended their lead with a bonus-point try through Andy Brown, although tries from Huw Taylor and a second for Adams meant the Warriors had a conversion to level the game at 26-24.
But Tiff Eden missed leaving Worcester with only two bonus points to show for their trouble.
Former Leicester Tiger Paolo Odugwu scored a first-half hat-trick against his former club in the next encounter as Sale took a 24-7 lead into the break, and five more tries in the second half, including two for Ben Curry, took Sale’s tally to nine for the game.
After an early score from Falcons’ Tom Catterick, a hat-trick for Wales under-20 international Adams put Worcester right back into the group. Ted Hill also got a try as Worcester secured a bonus-point 24-21 victory which saw them top Group D after four games.
And with everything to play for, Sale Sharks roared away from Worcester with Odogwu running in another three tries to take his remarkable tally to seven, before Newcastle coped well with conceding an early try to lead 12-7 at the interval in their decisive final clash.
Tom Hardwick levelled to Leicester but Temm and Hodgson’s scores for the Falcons saw them coast into the quarter-finals at the Ricoh Arena.
Quarter Final 1 – Cardiff Blues v Sale Sharks
Quarter Final 2 – Exeter Chiefs v Northampton Saints
Quarter Final 3 – Harlequins v Wasps
Quarter Final 4 – Newcastle Falcons v Ospreys
Sale Sharks 12 (Rogerson, Odogwu)
Newcastle Falcons 31 (Hodgson, Orr, Catterick, Marshall, Temm)
Leicester Tigers 26 (Olowofela, Tuilagi, Reffell, Brown)
Worcester Warriors 24 (Ainslie, Adams 2, Taylor)
Leicester Tigers 7 (Kerr)
Sale Sharks 55 (Odogwu 4, Mitchell, Rogerson, Curry 2)
Newcastle Falcons 21 (Catterick, Marshall, Radwan)
Worcester Warriors 24 (Adams 3, Hill)
Sale Sharks 31 (Scott, Odogwu 3, Mitchell)
Worcester Warriors 0
Leicester Tigers 17 (Kerr, Hardwick, Yawayaya)
Newcastle Falcons 26 (Hodgson 2, Marshall, Temm)
Eight teams will play for the first silverware of the season in the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series Finals from 2pm at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry on Sunday 7 August. Click here for tickets.