Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
leicestertigers.comMattioli Woods Welford RoadContact UsTopps Tiles

Report | Tigers claim historic first Premiership victory in battling performance

Figure image

A last minute score from childhood Tigers fan Leah Bartlett sealed victory for Leicester Tigers, as they claimed a historic first win in Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby.

A true battle with a physical Sale Sharks team, Tigers scored three second half tries to seal it and begin the celebrations.

As the whistle blows and Natasha Jones kicks high into a cloudy sky, the heavens open and the rain begins to stream down.

An initially messy first period, with both sides knocking on in difficult conditions, the first big cheer of the day comes when the Tigers scrum force a penalty against the head on their own 22.

Sara Tounesi has been a wrecking ball thus far and Sale give her a huge run up from the kick, which evades touch, the Italian international bouncing off a couple of tackles before being hauled down. Sale look to punch holes in Tigers midfield before shifting the ball quickly wide, fullback Amanda Swartz astute to the danger and does well to haul wing Nikita Prothero into touch.

Tigers clear their line through the boot of Claire Gallagher but the Sharks come flying back, hungry for the first score of the day. Their phase play gets them back to the Tigers 22 for the third time thus far but a big hit and astute turnover from captain Jones relieving pressure.

Both sides trade possession but it’s Tigers who strike first. With a penalty awarded, Meg Jones reacts quickest, a swift tap and go seeing the Red Rose sprint through at full pace, from inside her own half. She steps one defender and only has the fullback to beat, unselfishly opting to pop to Gallagher on her shoulder. The Canadian International gets her first Tigers try, diving under the posts, Meg’s conversion allowing Tigers to take an early seven point lead.

However, Sharks break almost immediately from kick off spotting a gap in midfield and flying through, punting the ball over the line and forcing Tigers to touch it down.

In the midst of these scores the Tigers scrum have shown immense confidence, twice ‘pulling a Springbok’ and calling for scrums well inside their own half, the first from a penalty just inside and the second, following the Sale chase, from a free kick no more than five metres out from their own line. The scrum is won and Tigers break to halfway, Tahlia Brody soaring through on a typically crashing line.

However, a few phases later, Tigers cede possession and the Sharks are ruthless. Agricultural rugby gradually inches them up the field before the force a penalty, duly kicked to and duly mauled over the line in the right-hand corner. A stellar conversion from fullback Vicky Irwin draws the scores level.

From here, Sale look to take control of the game and continue to come flying into contact, comfortable smashing up on short lines and working on incremental gains.  

Tigers, equally, have come for a fight and stay staunch in defence throughout several minutes of pure tackling of pure grunt work, shots coming in across the park from a strong rush defence, the likes of Brody, Elis Martin and Morgan Richardson getting stuck to keep the home side from claiming the lead and instead winning a turnover to huge cheers.

Back and forth momentum swings; Sale make it up to the try line but Beatrice Rigoni held up by Amy Relf before Meg Jones holds up a crashing Shark. Crushingly, there’s time for one last twist before half time as the referee pulls the game back for a penalty advantage given prior to Jones’ hold up and Sale tap and go, swift hands and an outrageous floating misspass from Italian star Beatrice Rigoni exploiting space for the home side to score in the corner and end the half in the lead for the first time today.

Half time score: Sale Sharks 12 – 7 Leicester Tigers

With a late score at such a pivotal time, you may assume that Sale would be given the impetus in the second half but Tigers fly out the blocks, silky attacking interplay building up the field before Tess Feury dots down in the corner after lovely hands, drawing the scores level.  

Once again, though, Sharks circle. The rain lashes down heavier and heavier by the minute and the Northerners are well in their wheelhouse, the ball rarely travelling more than one or two passes at most and the game staying tight and tough as carries crash in across the centre of the field. Eventually, the pressure tells and Sale edge back ahead with a crashing drive that sees them cross the whitewash beneath the posts.

Hear the play gets scrappy again, both sides struggling for consistency in such biblical conditions

An excellent turnover from Francesca McGhie is won with Sale Sharks entering Tigers territory but the subsequent kick to touch cedes possession not long after, the ball not straight.

Now the home side look to break quickly but substitutes Julia Omokhuale (on her for Tigers debut) and Catha Jacobs combine to level their opposite number and force a knock on, an audible ‘oooft’ coming from the stands.

Inspired, the visitors seize the initiative and attack in waves. Sale defend tightly and hold strong but Tigers are keen to whip it wide, try scorers Gallagher and Feury combining with a slick move on the right touchline to create an inch of space. But, that’s all Meg Jones needs.

From a lofted pop, Jones races onward, flying past an attempted cover tackle and dotting down in the right corner to bring Tigers back within a couple of points.

With twenty minutes to go, it’s anyone’s game and the crowd and staff can sense it, nervousness  seeping around the Chester pitch. As the time ticks away and both sides struggle to make it out of midfield, it feels like there’s only time for one score left.

It’s Sale who begin to build. A canny turnover won on the stroke of halfway is kicked to touch, deep, five metres from the Tigers touchline. What transpires over these next three or four minutes is immeasurable, an amazing resilience as the Tigers defence, lead by a relentless forward pack that features a front row completing the full 80 minutes, smashing back Sale, refusing to be breached until finally holding the ball up on their own try line to huge cheers from the away bench.

From the clearance, Sale cruelly knock on and it’s Tigers turn to incrementally build; despite the conditions and their exhaustion, the side keeps the hands flowing, loads of quick pops and hard lines keeping the ball progressing up the pitch until it comes. The penalty is given, kicked to Sale’s 22 by captain Jones.

The pack drives and then splinters off, forwards piling in until finally, prop Leah Bartlett, a childhood Tigers fan, drives over to put the away side in front and seal a famous victory.

With just a minute left, the side cling on and the whistle is blown. And then, the celebrations begin.

Full time score: Sale Sharks 19 – 22 Leicester Tigers

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

SAL 12-7 LEI

FT ScoreFull Time Score

SAL 19-22 LEI

Attendance

Not available

Referee

Not available

Sale Sharks Women
Sale Sharks Women
19

Full Time

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
22
Sale Sharks Women
T
C
T
T
T
T
C
KOHTFT
Leicester Tigers
T
C
T
T

Commentary

FULL TIME | FIRST WIN!

A first-ever Women's Premiership win for Leicester Tigers, Leah Bartlett's late score edging the side in front and claim a historic victory.

TRY | LEAH BARTLETT

Surely the winner! A last minute driving score from the childhood Tigers fan!

TRY | MEG JONES

A brilliant score from the Red Rose!

Space is crafted from nothing through slick hands between Gallagher and Feury on the right hand side before Jones steams through on a pop pass, sprinting into the space and touching down.

CONVERSION | SALE SHARKS

Irwin adds the extras and extends the home lead.

TRY | SALE SHARKS

The home side edge in front following a succession of tight carries.

TRY | TESS FEURY

Back level!

The USA international dives over in the corner, following a quick break and pair of tight phases before the ball is flung wide.

HALF TIME

Sharks hold a narrow lead going into the second 40.

Sale Sharks 12 - 7 Leicester Tigers

TRY | SALE SHARKS

On the stroke of half time, the home side take the lead for the first time, scoring in the corner following quick hands out to the left.

TRY | SALE SHARKS

On the stroke of half time, the home side take the lead for the first time, scoring in the corner following quick hands out to the left.

CONVERSION | SALE SHARKS

The home side add the extras and it's all square.

TRY | SALE SHARKS

Sharks strike back from a driving maul from a few metres out.

CONVERSION | MEG JONES

Jones slots the extras from in front of the posts!

TRY | CLAIRE GALLAGHER

Tigers strike first!

Canadian international Claire Gallagher gets her first Tigers try, touching down under the posts after showing great support from Meg Jones' break from a tap penalty.

KICK OFF

We're underway at Chester RUFC, Natasha Jones kicking us off!

-10

10 minutes till kick off!

Just ten minutes to go until we get underway in today's Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby Round Nine clash with Sale Sharks!


Preview | Tigers to battle Sharks on Sunday

Figure image

Leicester Tigers will make the journey north to Sale Sharks this Sunday, January 21, to tackle one of Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby's most physical sides.

Sale Sharks pride themselves on their toughness, the team recording the second-highest carry dominance rate of any team in this season’s Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby (58%), while lock Sara Tounesi has the highest carry dominance rate of any player to have made 50+ carries in this season’s Allianz PWR (71%, min. 50 carries)

Travelling away to Sale is aways a difficult task and this will be made ever trickier with the current frosty temperatures the country has been experiencing over the past week. Grit and endurance are set to be put to the test by both sides, the team that can best battle the weather going a long way to deciding the final outcome of this encounter.

The match will see a real clash of philosophies between the two sides, a travelling Tigers team that love to play wide and a stern Sharks side who love to keep the ball tight and run abrasive lines.

These playstyles are shown in the statistics; Leicester Tigers have moved the ball at least two metres from the previous ruck on a greater share of their attacking phases than any other side in this season’s Allianz Premiership Women’s Rugby (93%), while Sale Sharks have done so from a lesser percentage of their phases than any other team (87%).

With a trio of playmakers named in the Tigers midfield, in fly half Natasha Jones and centres Claire Gallagher and Meg Jones, the team are always looking to play the ball into space when they can, which pays dividends when combined with such talented wing options. Francesca McGhie has enjoyed a breakout season at Premiership level after shining on the International stage, the flyer making more metres per carry than any other player in the league this term (13.0m per carry).

That's not to say that Tigers are just a team defined by their backs. The forwards do more than their fair share of hard running to get the side on the front foot and draw in opposing defenders in order to grant the side space to work with. The stats show they do a solid job of drawing in opponents: Leicester Tigers are one of just three teams to have committed 2+ tacklers from over half of their carries in the league this term (53%).

With a difficult away journey on the horizon, Tigers will be hoping their attacking gameplan will all come together for a full 80 minutes on Sunday, to have a shot at earning their first ever win in Allianz Premiership Women's Rugby.

posteamteam namepldwdlfadifftftatblbpts
8
Leicester Tigers
Leicester TigersLEI10208183368-1852960418
9
Sale Sharks Women
Sale Sharks WomenSAL10109119418-2991868223
Form Guide
Form
LLLLL
Last Match
Lost to Gloucester-Hartpury Women RFC 3-29
Past Meeting
Lost 19-22
Form
Last Match
Past Meeting
Form
LLWLW
Last Match
Beat Loughborough Lightning 22-17
Past Meeting
Won 22-19

Matchday Live

Sale Sharks Women19
Sale Sharks Women
Leicester Tigers22
Leicester Tigers
Full Time