Ben Youngs’ try on his Aviva Premiership return heaped more misery on Sale Sharks as Leicester Tigers came from behind to claim a 20-8 win at Salford City Stadium.
The home side were looking to put an end to a six-game losing streak – dating back to the final Aviva Premiership game of last season – and got off to the perfect start as Rob Miller went over in the early stages.
And Sale kept that lead up until half-time, going in to the interval 8-6 in front as Leicester could only manage two George Ford penalties in reply to Miller’s effort and Nick Macleod’s three-pointer.
But that was as good as it got for Sale as after the break Youngs crossed and Ford kept the scoring ticking over with the boot to leave the Sharks rooted to the foot of the Aviva Premiership table and still searching for their first victory of the campaign.
Sale, not only searching for their first win of the season but also their first victory over Leicester in more than three years, started the game on the front foot and after Macleod’s clever chip over Niall Morris he was forced to touch the ball down behind his own tryline for a five-metre scrum.
And although the initial threat was over the Sharks didn’t let up and just a minute later Macleod sent last season’s top Aviva Premiership try-scorer Miller away on the right wing, the full-back shrugging off the attentions of Vereniki Goneva to cross for his first of this campaign.
Macleod was wide of the left post with the tough conversion attempt by the right touchline but Sale had the lead their encouraging start deserved.
Leicester took some time to find their feet but Graham Kitchener provided some impetus, the lock bursting through the tackles before earning his side a penalty that Ford knocked over to reduce the deficit.
Five minutes later Macleod sent over a penalty of his own to restore Sale’s five-point advantage only for Ford to reply after the Tigers were awarded a penalty at a scrum.
The visitors were dealt a blow on the half hour as Goneva was sent to the sin bin for a deliberate knock on when Sale were looking to race down the right touchline again.
However they didn’t concede any points while down to 14 men, but needed some desperate and brave defending to do so.
On 34 minutes Anthony Allen was forced to touch down again after another chip over and it seemed that every Shark was having a go at carrying the ball over after the scrum before Will Addison thought he had finally made the telling breakthrough.
However referee Wayne Barnes went to the TMO who judged that there had been a knock-on in the build up and the score stayed 8-6 in favour of the hosts up to half-time.
Just three minutes after the break Ford knocked over his third penalty to give Leicester the lead for the first time in the game.
And it got better just two minutes later as Youngs, in his first game back since picking up a shoulder injury in England’s second Test in South Africa back in June, went over in the same corner that Miller did in the first half for a Leicester try.
Youngs owed a lot to debutant Richard Thorpe as the flanker spun out of the back of a scrum to send the scrum-half over for the easy try, Ford wide with the conversion.
However the fly-half was back on the scoresheet with a 52nd-minute penalty from 40m as Leicester’s dominant start to the second half saw them build a 17-8 lead.
Sale tried to get back into the game, most noticeably through breaks from replacement scrum-half Nathan Fowles and Miller, but they once again found the Leicester defence to be standing strong.
Macleod had the chance to reduce the deficit with a 68th-minute penalty but it fell short.
And things went from bad to worse for the home side as replacement Joe Ward was yellow carded on 72 minutes for throwing two punches, Ford knocking over the resulting penalty to seal the victory.