Laurence Pearce’s first-half score ended Leicester Tigers’ Aviva Premiership Rugby try-scoring drought and set them on their way to victory over Sale Sharks at Welford Road.
The Tigers were without a try for more than 300 minutes of Aviva Premiership Rugby action but a dominant first-half display saw that come to an end when Pearce scrambled over the whitewash in the 12th minute.
The home side gave the Sharks no room to breathe in a disciplined and clinical opening period that saw them also awarded a penalty try for their endeavours.
Sale showed spirit in the second half but the result was never in doubt as Seremaia Bai broke through late on to make absolutely sure of the points.
It was a positive start from Tigers who probed early with Bai creating space down the right before they swung the ball left to stretch the Sale defence.
The good work earned Leicester some solid possession inside the Sale 22 and the pressure told after five minutes when a Freddie Burns penalty got things going.
Sale were level in the tenth minute thanks to a 51-metre penalty from Nick Macleod but it was Tigers who were seeing the most of the ball.
And their second expedition to the Sale 22 brought Leicester’s first try when Pearce crashed over the line and Burns tagged on the extras for a 10-3 lead.
Leicester found themselves in attacking territory almost immediately after the restart and made sure they were capitalising on every assault with Burns adding another three to move his side further in front.
It was all going wrong for Steve Diamond’s men and a yellow card for Tom Arscott after 17 minutes made matters worse.
Sale were in danger of letting the game drift away in the first half and constant pressure saw two potential Tigers tries ruled out by the TMO while Magnus Lund was sin-binned.
The visitors were well and truly under the cosh and the Leicester pack eventually broke down the Sale resistance to force a penalty try – Burns left with a simple kick.
Tigers started the second half with the same ferocity that they began the first but Sale found themselves with a chance to claw their way back into the match when Bai saw yellow after 47 minutes.
Steady progress saw the Sharks with a scrum five yards out and they worked the ball brilliantly to the right for Arscott to dot down milliseconds before being pushed into touch – Joe Ford off target with the conversion.
The resistance was strong from Sale but all-too brief as a Burns penalty with an hour gone gave his team a 23-8 lead.
Leicester had the lead but their performance dropped in the second period and Sale were refusing to give up the fight.
Sloppy passing from the home side was gifting possession to the Sharks but the visitors were struggling to put meaningful spells of possession together.
In the face of a stubborn Tigers rearguard, Sale couldn’t find any way through and, as time ticked down, Leicester began to reassert their dominance.
And, while the game was never in doubt, Bai made absolutely certain when he burst through with pace to extend the lead on 78 minutes.
Tickets for the Aviva Premiership Rugby final are on sale. Click here to snap one up: premiershiprugby.com/final