A Nick Malouf try in the final minutes gave Leicester Tigers a bonus-point 35-27 victory over Sale Sharks at Welford Road on Sunday in Round 8 of the Aviva Premiership season.
The lead changed hands virtually with every score of the afternoon, with Sharks running in their bonus-point try just 10 minutes into the second half. But there was never more than five points separating the teams until Malouf’s final reach for the line in the 78th minute.
After trailing to an early Ben Curry try – with Telusa Veainu already in the sinbin after just four minutes – Tigers took the lead for the first time midway through the first half. In a rollercoaster encounter, Tigers trailed again before Ellis Genge’s first try of the season. But then Marland Yarde replied as the visitors went in at the break 22-20 in front.
The scoring continued in the second half, Tigers finally edging three points in front with a smart finish by Gareth Owen before the grandstand ending.
After five successive wins in Aviva Premiership rugby, Tigers were led out by skipper Tom Youngs, making his 100th appearance in top-flight league rugby.
Tigers welcomed back Veainu and Malouf after a fortnight of Anglo-Welsh Cup action, and had Mike Williams and Gareth Owen in the starting line-up as they returned from injury. Mike Fitzgerald, originally named on the bench for his first appearance of the season following knee surgery, was a late call-up to the starting team after illness ruled out Dom Barrow on the day of the game. Pat Cilliers was also omitted after a fitness check, with Greg Bateman switching to tighthead and Ellis Genge coming in at loosehead.
There was also an opportunity for young prospects Harry Simmons and Tom Hardwick to get involved in a Premiership matchday for the first time.
Sharks, who won both of their cup fixtures against Saracens and Worcester, included new signing Yarde, with Denny Solomona on the opposite flank after his release from the England squad.
On a bright but chilly afternoon, Joe Ford kicked off and Sharks quickly showed their strength up front with a drive of more than 20 metres at a maul.
A snappy pass from James O’Connor then sent skipper Jono Ross through a gap and, although the next pass did not go to hand as Faf de Klerk burst through in support, the referee brought play to a halt for a deliberate knock-on by Veainu inside his own 22.
After checking the replays, referee Luke Pearce yellow-carded the Tigers full-back, but the home side escaped any further punishment as de Klerk hammered his kick from 20 metres against the outside of the post.
The scoreboard stayed blank for only another 90 seconds or so, though, as Valentino Mapapalangi was penalised for a high tackle in midfield and this time de Klerk sent his kick high between the posts for a three-point advantage with just over five minutes played.
Williams and Genge both carried strongly as Tigers looked to create some momentum on the ball and got their reward when Sharks were penalised at a ruck for playing the scrum-half Sam Harrison. Joe Ford stepped up to level the scores from the tee with 10 minutes gone.
Sharks immediately threatened the Tigers line with a sharp attack down the left but, even when Yarde was stopped just five metres out, the move was only brought to a halt when de Klerk knocked-on as he looked to snipe round the blindside of the tackle area.
It was another let-off for the Tigers defence and a strong scrum allowed Harrison to clear his lines before Veainu returned to the action.
Sharks were still dominating possession, though, and drilled a penalty down the right touchline when Matt Smith was whistled on halfway and this time they retained possession long enough to create the opening try.
Going through the phases 20 metres out, a chip from Mike Haley turned the defence and young flanker Curry dotted down in the corner. De Klerk was unable to add the conversion as the visitors led 8-3.
Ford missed his next kick at goal but Tigers stayed on the front foot with a penalty on the right and, with the referee playing advantage again, Ford's grubber almost led to a try. Smith, chasing the kick but also trying to avoid the goalposts, was adjudged to have knocked forward before he got downward pressure on the ball and, after consultation with the TMO, the referee went back for the penalty award on the right.
This time Tigers set up the drive and, after being stopped short, Tom Youngs picked up and referee Pearce signalled a penalty try with Sharks infringing in retreat on their own line. Curry was yellow-carded and, with no conversion necessary under this season’s new laws, Tigers led for the first time at 10-8.
That lead became five points just moments later with Ford’s second penalty after Sharks prop Will-Griff John had been ruled offside.
But Sharks were quickly in front again with another big set of phases close to the Tigers line creating the space for centre Mark Jennings to score on the right. De Klerk’s kick crept inside the right-hand post to give the visitors a 15-13 lead.
The response was immediate with Genge running in his first try of the season after good work by Will Evans, the prop timing his run on to a pass perfectly to beat the last tackler and score under the posts. Ford’s conversion made 20-15 with three minutes left to play in an entertaining and open first half.
but Sale were not to be outdone as Yarde capitalised on good work in attack to score wide on the left and the conversion from de Klerk from the touchline made it 20-22 in the visitors’ favour as the half came to a close.
Sale also had the opening opportunity of the second period, but de Klerk got underneath a penalty from halfway which fell well short and Veainu was able to boot clear.
When Sale were then penalised at a ruck, and marched a further 10 metres after backchat to the referee, Tigers elected to go into the left-hand corner. The lineout drive made a move towards the line but Curry wrapped up the carrier and Tigers were forced to re-set. This time, Sharks infringed under the posts and Ford nudged Tigers back in front with the penalty at 23-22.
Sharks responded with a push through phase-play in the forwards and gained a bonus-point try on 51 minutes as skipper Jono Ross powered over for their fourth of the afternoon. De Klerk missed the kick but the visitors were again in front at 23-27.
Tigers threatened with phases of play in the Sharks 22 before an offside award in midfield and, from another penalty, referee Pearce spoke to visiting captain Ross about his team's discipline. Tigers this time went to play quickly but Mapapalangi was held up in possession in the shadow of the posts.
Sale bravely used the defensive scrum as a platform to attack from deep and almost found a way through at the other end before Genge stripped ball from Bryn Evans on the 22-metre line.
The tightest of contests continued and, with the referee playing advantage for another offside, Ford’s crosskick found Owen who beat Yarde to the ball in the air and then superbly reached out one-handed to score in the right-hand corner.
The pressure was on the kick but Ford slotted an immaculate conversion from the touchline as Tigers led again at 30-27.
It was Owen’s last contribution, making way for Jonah Holmes to make his Premiership debut for the club as Brendon O’Connor replaced Evans with 68 minutes on the clock.
There was still no decisive move in momentum as Tigers spilled lineout ball in a promising position on the right and then from a knock-on in Sale 22 territory.
But Yarde found himself the victim of a mounting penalty count, being yellow-carded after a high tackle on Smith as the referee made the point to captain Ross that had already warned the Sharks.
From the penalty, Tigers set up a lineout drive, with Smith taking control of possession as he joined the push. The whistle went again, and again Tigers went to the corner. Although Sale resisted once more, the hosts remained composed enough to wait for their chance.
It came with just two minutes remaining as Mapapalangi straightened on an attack on the right and flicked a pass out for Malouf who showed great strength and determination to get over the line for the bonus-point score. It also put Tigers more than a score in front even before Ford’s failed conversion attempt at 35-27.
Tigers are back at Welford Road next Saturday when Worcester Warriors are the visitors in the Aviva Premiership. Match tickets are on sale now. See you there!
Spire Man of the Match
Supporters voted Ellis Genge their Spire Man of the Match. Well played Ellis and well voted you lovely lot!
Tigers had to dig deep and come from behind, but Nick Malouf's late try gives them the full five points in a 35-27 victory over Sale Sharks.
That's the game
Tigers collect the restart and run down the clock ... three ... two ... one
Malouf gets the bonus
Tigers hammered away in the forwards then swung the ball deep, where Mapapalangi's out-of-the-back pass gave Malouf enough space to score. Great stuff!
Welford Road erupts!
Welford Road goes bonkers as Malouf goes over at the right-hand corner!
Yet another penalty
Sale have conceded 17 penalties to three by Tigers. This time Will Cliff pulls down the maul.
Cracking kick by Ford
Ford finds touch with his penalty 7m out. Come on boys!
Sale finish with 14 men
After repeated team warnings, Sale wing Yarde is sent to the sin bin after a high tackle on Smith.
Scrum to Sale
Play will restart with Sale put-in at a scrum on their 22. They secure possession and kick deep to Veainu.
Men down on both sides
The clock is off as Mapapalangi gets treatment for cramp. Sale back-rowers Curry and Ross also getting running repairs.
Another team warning
Another penalty in midfield against the Sharks and referee Pearce issues Sale with another team warning.
It is Owen's last involvement. He is replaced by Jonah Holmes for his Premiership debut. Malouf goes to centre. Brendon O'Connor is also on for Evans.
What a conversion
Ford is tight to the touchline but makes his conversion look easy. Tigers lead 30-27.
Try time to Tigers!
Get in! Ford, with another penalty advantage, goes aerial and picks out Gareth Owen with a pinpoint crossfield kick. Owen rises above Yarde and then holds off the winger to score by the corner flag.
Vote for your Spire Man of the Match
Voting is open for the Spire Man of the Match. Place your vote now.
Offside against Sale
Sale are offside again in midfield but, despite the team warning, there is no card from referee Pearce. Ford kicks Tigers up to the Sale 22.
With Youngs now off the field, Sam Harrison has taken over as captain.
Harry Thacker is on for Tom Youngs. Thacker's first involvement will be a scrum on the Tigers 22.
Sale No8 Strauss infringes in their 22 and Sale are on a warning. Tigers tap the penalty and go but Mapapalangi is held up under the posts. Scrum to Sale.
Tigers have the chance to attack from a 5m lineout. Sale make a mess of it but Tigers have the ball.
Sale have their try bonus
Sale captain Jono Ross goes over from close range after more Sale pressure. De Klerk's mixed afternoon with the boot continues as he misses the conversion.
Tigers lead by a point
Joe Ford knocks over the penalty from in front and Tigers lead 23-22.
Penalty bang in front
Tigers get the maul going but it is stopped short. Matt Smith then tries to dance through, and wins the penalty for not rolling. Should be simple for Ford.
Back chat from Webber sees his side marched back 10m by the referee. Ford finds touch 8m out.
... but de Klerk strikes the ball horribly. It lands short for Veainu to find touch 40m out.
Sale shot at goal
Tigers are pinged at a maul on halfway and de Klerk points to the posts ...
Sale get us restarted
De Klerk will kick-off the second half with Tigers attacking the Mattioli Woods Stand end of the ground.
Teams are back out
Sale are first out, closely followed by the Tigers, for the second half. Come on you Tigers!
VOTING NOW OPEN!
Help decide today's Man of the Match using your Official Tigers App. Voting is now open and closes at the full time whistle, exclusively for App users.
It's half-time at Welford Road. Sale lead 22-20 after scoring three tries in the opening period to two for Tigers, a penalty try and one for Ellis Genge.
Sale lead again
De Klerk lands a tough conversion from wide on the left. They lead 22-20.
All square again
Sale are a real threat with their big ball carriers and again they create space for the try in the wide channels. This time it's Yarde who dives over for the try.
Joe Ford adds the extras from in front of the posts to complete the seven-point score.
Tigers hit back immediately and score from a lovely passage of play. Eventually Evans makes the break and has Genge on hand to score from close range.
De Klerk finds his range with the conversion from the right. Sale lead 15-13.
Try for the Sharks
Sale put together a sustained period of pressure on the Leicester line and eventually work the opening for Mark Jennings to score on the right from close range.
Tigers lead by five
Ford lands a simple penalty to move Tigers 13-8 ahead. There are still six minutes on the Curry yellow card.
Penalty to Tigers
Nothing doing with the high tackle but Sale have been pinged for offside. Ford going for the posts.
All Tigers now
The game has swung Tigers way and they are on the attack. Referee again going to his TMO, this time to check a potential high tackle by Josh Charnley on Ellis Genge.
No need for Ford to convert the penalty try.
Plus a yellow card
Referee Pearce, after issuing a team warning to Sale, also sends Curry to the bin. Welford Road is buzzing now.
Tigers again have Sale in trouble at the maul and again Sale pull it down. Referee Pearce awards the penalty try.
Smith applied pressure with his elbow but the officials say he was not in control. Play comes back for the maul offence ...
Is it a try?
Tigers, with another penalty advantage, think they've scored. Ford slides a kick through, which hits a post, rebounds onto Smith, who dives onto the ball. TMO being consulted about a knock-on.
And another penalty
Sale pull the maul down and Ford puts Tigers right into the corner ...
Another penalty to Tigers
... this time Ford puts it to within 10m of the corner ...
Ford off target
Ford makes a nice connection but his kick goes wide to the left.
Penalty to Tigers
Josh Strauss whistled for a high tackle. Ford to take on the kick from 40m.
Try for Sale
Sale's early dominance has brought them the first try. After going through the phases Mike Haley chips through for Ben Curry to score at the right corner. It goes unconverted.
Tigers exit well from their 22, Harrison finding touch on the 10m line. Veainu returns from his yellow card to a huge cheer around the stadium.
Sam Harrison and Greg Bateman combine to stop Marland Yarde 5m out, before de Klerk knocks on as he tries to force the position.
Ford takes his time with his kick, before making a sweet connection to bring Tigers level. 3-3
Tigers have the chance to put points on the board as Ostrikov infringes at a breakdown ...
Tigers have yet to settle into this, and errors are costing them as the first lineout goes off target and Ford misses touch with a penalty.
All Sale Sharks
It has been all Sale in the opening minutes. Tigers have yet to enjoy any possession. The hosts will look to put that right from a lineout on halfway.
De Klerk makes no mistake this time and Sale lead 3-0 early on.
Another Sale penalty
De Klerk will get another go after Mapapalangi is pinged for a high tackle on Rob Webber.
What a miss
De Klerk has somehow missed the penalty from bang in front. His kick hit a post and flew wide for a 22m drop out.
Veainu goes to the bin for deliberately knocking-on Ross's pass, intended for his scrum-half Faf de Klerk. No penalty try as Adam Thompstone looked to be making the ground across.
Referee Luke Pearce is talking to his TMO about the knock-on by Veainu. Is it a yellow card?
Early break by Jono Ross puts Sale into the Tigers 22. Veainu attempts to intercept his pass and could be in trouble for a knock-on ...
Joe Ford gets us going, with Tigers attacking the Robin Hood Stand end of the ground.
Smoke on the Water
The familiar tune of Smoke on the Water strikes up ... and Tom Youngs, on his 100th Premiership appearance, leads out the Tigers to a great noise around Welford Road.
Welcome our visitors
Sale Sharks are the first out on to the pitch ...
Warm-ups are over
Charge your glasses, replenish your snacks, take your seats. The warm-ups are over and kick-off against Sale Sharks is moments away.
Warm-up on a cold afternoon
The warm-ups are underway at Welford Road. Kick-off is 15 minutes away.
Words from the skipper
Tom Youngs delivers a few words to the squad before the warm-ups begin.
Spire Man of the Match
Don't forget you can vote for this afternoon's Spire Man of the Match on the official Tigers app. Voting opens at half-time and will close one minute before the full-time whistle. Simply click on the top news story in the app on the day to vote.
Ton up Tom Youngs
All the very best to captain Tom Youngs, who makes his 100th appearance for Tigers in the Premiership. Go well skipper
Today's confirmed Leicester Tigers and Sale Sharks teams.
Tigers line-up: 15 Telusa Veainu, 14 Nick Malouf, 13 Matt Smith, 12 Gareth Owen, 11 Adam Thompstone, 10 Joe Ford, 9 Sam Harrison; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Tom Youngs (c), 3 Greg Bateman, 4 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 6 Mike Williams, 7 Will Evans, 8 Valentino Mapapalangi. Replacements: 16 Harry Thacker, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Harry Wells, 20 Brendon O’Connor, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Jonah Holmes
Team change number two
Team change No1
Tigers have been forced to make two changes in the starting line-up. Details to follow.
The forecast for today's game is for temperatures of around 5C, and for clear skies ... perfect rugby conditions.
Welcome to the home of the Tigers
Welcome to a cold and clear Welford Road for this afternoon's Aviva Premiership Round 8 clash with Sale Sharks.