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Wildcard Tigers roar into Europe Wildcard Tigers roar into Europe

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Wildcard Tigers roar into Europe

The win also had a whiff of old 'Fortress Twickenham' about it, with Tigers' skipper Martin Johnson returned to the West London landmark for the first time since hanging up his England boots to duly hoist a trophy.

The win confirms Leicester return to form after suffering an uncharacteristically slow start to the season, and they will carry their unbeaten run of results – dating from January 3 – into the new season.

Leicester stalwarts Austin Healey, Neil Back, Leon Lloyd and Daryl Gibson all got across the line, but it was Andy Goode – who played for Saracens against Leicester in last season's Wildcard Final – who got the party started.

The fullback slotted two penalties to give his side a 6-0 lead after just seven minutes of play, but Sale hit back through captain-for-the-day Jason Robinson.

The England star linked with wing Steve Hanley down the blindside before taking the return pass to power under posts.

After Charlie Hodgson's conversion, Healey stole back the lead with a try born of a cheeky dummy and dive from the base of a ruck. Goode converted to make it 13-7.

The try got the Tigers roaring, and they never looked back. Goode kicked his third penalty to give Leicester a 16-7 lead, and former All Black centre Gibson crashed over for an unconverted try with half-time approaching.

Hodgson trimmed the gap with a penalty to leave the game poised at 21-10 at the break, but the Tigers came charging out of the bowels of Twickenham to score two quick-fire tries that sandwiched a lone Hodgson penalty.

The first came after Healey's cross-field kick was collected and dispatched by Lloyd – the second via a trademark truck-and-trailer effort scored, of course, by Back.

Hanley managed to get over for a try that kept the Tigers just within range, but Leicester hit straight back through a Goode penalty and another Back try.

As the Leicester faithful turned their attention to next year's fixture list and European holiday plans, Robinson stirred his men with a fine run that lead to a consolation try for Scott Benton.

But the final word – and the ticket to Europe – went to Leicester, as Lloyd strolled over to complete his brace, with Goode once again converting.

The scorers:

For Leicester Tigers:Tries: Healey, Gibson, Lloyd 2, Back 2Cons: Goode 3Pens: Goode 4

For Sale Sharks: Tries: Robinson, Hanley, BentonCons: Hodgson 3Pens: Hodgson 2

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