Leicester Tigers close in on Premiership semi-final by thrashing lacklustre Sale Sharks

Sports Staff
Owen Williams celebrates after scoring a try for Leicester against Sale: Getty

Leicester Tigers put themselves in pole position for the fourth Aviva Premiership play-off place with a bonus-point 41-18 victory at home to Sale.

The convincing win put the Tigers on 62 points, nine ahead of Bath, who meet Gloucester on Sunday.

Victory at Worcester next week will clinch fourth place for the Tigers who scored five tries in front of a 23,940 crowd.

Fly-half Freddie Burns led the way in his final home game before joining Bath with a try and 19 points, the other scores coming from Graham Kitchener, Owen Williams, Jack Roberts and George McGuigan.

Rob Webber and Bryn Evans scored for Sale with AJ MacGinty kicking eight points.

Kitchener and winger Adam Thompstone, the players' player of the year, both made their 100th starts for Leicester, while captain Tom Youngs returned to the pack.

Sale made four changes, including at the back of the scrum where former Tigers number eight Laurence Pearce replaced injured captain Josh Beaumont.

Leicester led 20-10 at half-time thanks to tries by fly-half Freddie Burns, who also kicked 10 points, and Kitchener, with hooker and captain Rob Webber replying for Sale. Fly-half MacGinty kicked a conversion and a penalty.

After a first minute punch-up, Sale showed their intent by going for a try from a line-out instead of kicking a penalty, Leicester flanker Brendon O'Connor drove lock George Nott back five metres and Sale winger Josh Charnley was sin-binned in the fourth minute for taking out Thompstone in mid-air.

George McGuigan touches down for a try (Getty)

Burns gave Leicester an eighth-minute lead with a penalty but moments after Charnley returned to the field, Webber was driven over for a try from a line-out which MacGinty converted.

MacGinty's 21st-minute penalty put Sale 10-3 ahead but then Leicester, despite a misfiring line-out hit back with tries in the 24th and 31st minutes.

Burns shot through half a gap for the first after some ferocious pressure and Kitchener twisted out of a tackle and stretched for the line for the second.

Burns converted both and also kicked a 40th-minute penalty.

Owen Williams dots the ball down for a try (Getty)

Sale came close to scoring twice in the opening minutes of the second period but winger Denny Solomona knocked on when trying to collect a bouncing ball near the line and then they were held up on the line after some intense pressure.

Their pressure was rewarded with a 51st-minute MacGinty penalty but Leicester hit back with two tries in four minutes, the first after some ferocious pressure, the second from a 90-metre counter attack.

Centre Owen Williams, who is joining Gloucester, scored from a chip through under the posts by Burns who added the conversion.

Marcos Ayerza says his farewell to the Leicester crowd (Getty)

And then Roberts, who is joining Cardiff, finished off a brilliant counter after Sale, who had been pounding away at the Tigers line, had looked almost certain to score. Burns again converted and received a rapturous ovation when he left the field shortly afterwards.

Lock Evans scored Sale's second try four minutes from the end, MacGinty missing the conversion, but replacement George McGuigan got Leicester's fifth with seconds left and Williams converted.

Teams

Leicester: Tait, Thompstone, Roberts, O. Williams, Pietersen, Burns, B. Youngs, Genge, T. Youngs, Cole, Barrow, Kitchener, M. Williams, O'Connor, Hamilton.

Replacements: McGuigan, Bateman, Balmain, Fitzgerald, H. Thacker, Harrison, Smith, Betham.

Sale: Haley, Solomona, James, Jennings, Charnley, MacGinty, Phillips, Harrison, Webber, Longbottom, Evans, Ostrikov, Neild, T. Curry, Pearce.

Replacements: B. Curry, Flynn, Ferreira, Nott, Seymour, Stringer, Leota, McGuigan.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (RFU)

PA

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