Leicester Tigers were beaten 32-5 at Sale Sharks in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership season on Friday evening and lost back-rower Sione Kalamafoni to a red card midway through the second half.
Facundo Gigena’s first try in the Premiership gave Tigers an early lead, but Sharks came back to level the scores with 20 minutes gone on a cold and wet evening as lock Bryn Evans forced his way over from close range. They added a second through Denny Solomona just a few minutes later and held their 10-5 advantage at half-time.
The teams went into Friday’s contest tied on 34 points with Sharks in eighth place in the table and Tigers ninth, and it was the hosts who got the advantage in the second half, adding a third try before Tigers lost No8 Kalamafoni with more than 20 minutes still to play.
Three more scores followed, including a last-gasp penalty try as an injury-affected Tigers line-up emerged without reward for their efforts.
As well as the six players on duty with England, Geordan Murphy had to pick a Tigers team without Gareth Owen, Ben White and Sam Harrison, who were all hurt in the win over Wasps in Round 15, and he had only two backs among the replacements. Harry Simmons at scrum-half and wing Leonardo Sarto were starting a Premiership fixture for the first time.
Murphy was forced into another change when George Worth, due to start at centre, pulled up in the warm-up 15 minutes before kick-off. Sam Aspland-Robinson moved to the No13 shirt with Jordan Olowofela coming in on the wing. Freddie Steward, a member of the club’s Under-18 League winners for the last two seasons, earned a late call to the bench.
Sharks, with just two defeats in the last eight league games, got the game underway just as the rainfall increased on a chilly evening in the North-West but Tigers settled well and got off the mark with a try from Gigena who just did enough from close range to force his way over after a 30-metre break on the left from Olowofela had given the forwards sight of the tryline.
Referee Matthew Carley checked the replays and was satisfied the Argentine prop had reached the whitewash but Joe Ford, with the wind troubling the ball on the tee, was off target with the conversion.
From the restart, Tigers were unable to fully exit their 22 and then conceded a penalty at the breakdown. Faf De Klerk, though, shot wide of the left-hand post.
A series of scrums littered the next five minutes of play but Tigers had an escape when James O’Connor looked to get on the end of a cheeky little kick from fly-half Sam James, only for the ball to escape him almost within reach of the tryline.
Tigers, though, were pinned back and having to work hard in defence. Guy Thompson won ball on the floor to repel one attack and then Jonah Holmes had to dot down behind his own line, allowing Sharks the put-in from a five-metre scrum.
This time, Sharks got their reward with a try from Evans which provided the added blow of a yellow card for Ford as he slapped ball out of Sale hands on his own line. De Klerk missed again with the conversion with the scores tied at 5-5 on 22 minutes.
Sharks came straight back to add another five minutes later through Denny Solomona in the corner, awarded by referee Matthew Carley after checking the grounding. He also looked at a tackle in midfield by Joe Heyes but took no more action as De Klerk pushed his kick across the posts with his team 10-5 in front on 28 minutes.
Tigers recovered to play through phases of possession in attack but missed an opportunity when they were handed a penalty 30 metres out. With Ford still off the pitch, they went to touch but could not set up a drive.
Sale then thought they’d added a third score when James gathered a chargedown from Ford’s attempted clearance, but replays showed he had been in an offside position and half-time arrived with the home side still five points in front.
Play remained in the middle third of the field for the opening 10 minutes of the second period until wing Arron Reed’s break took Sale up to the tryline. The forwards finished the work after three more phases, prop Valery Morozov making the final push to stretch the advantage to 10 points at 15-5 as De Klerk missed another conversion attempt.
Solomona’s big hit on Holmes as he fielded a high kick forced ball loose and gave Sharks an attacking scrum on their right flank. They quickly transferred ball to the left but the kick in behind from O’Connor was too far for Reed to gather.
Tigers, though, were soon down to 14 men when Kalamafoni was red-carded as he cleared out Josh Beaumont at a ruck, referee Carley saying “shoulder to the head” as he check the replays.
Sale kept the ball close to the tryline, meeting defiant defence through half a dozen phases before Olowofela held up Solomona as he tried to score in the corner.
Relief was short-lived, though, as Sharks used their scrum to claim a fourth try with Josh Beaumont making the final touch. De Klerk missed the conversion with Sharks 20-5 ahead.
De Klerk received a yellow card as he took out Olowofela in the air soon after the restart and Ford’s kick to the left gave Tigers a rare chance in opposition territory. A second whistle followed, taking Tigers another 10 metres closer. Williams took the catch but the maul drove infield rather than advancing to the line and finally fell almost under the posts.
Tigers still had possession, however, with put-in at the scrum, but ball was lost when Reed ripped it in a tackle near the right touchline.
Strong work in defence snuffed out another Sharks chance as Ford and Holmes brought down Evans, then Olowofela stopped the dangerous Solomona.
Sale continued to use of their numeric advantage as they pushed Tigers back and De Klerk burst over from a five-metre scrum for a fifth try. As he left the field, Cameron Redpath missed the conversion but Sharks were 25-5 up.
Steward made his Premiership debut in the closing minutes, with Olowofela making way, and he immediately had to field a difficult kick over his shoulder to dot down behind his own line.
Time was up as the scrum set and with Tigers backpedalling, referee Carley awarded a penalty try in the final action of the game.
Thanks For Your Support
Thank you to those members of the #TigersFamily who made it up to Sale this evening to support the boys, and for those of you following on Matchday Live.
Tigers now have a week's break before returning to Welford Road for a Round 17 Premiership clash against Northampton Saints on Friday, March 22.
Full Time At The AJ Bell
Sale 32-5 Tigers
Sale look to push the scrum over, but as it splinters referee Matthew Carley runs under the posts to award a penalty try, and that's the match.
On The Tigers Line
Sale look to put the young Steward under pressure immediately, but he gathers the ball well under pressure and touches down over the try line to give Sale and five metre scrum.
Denny Solomona is off, replaced by Paolo Odogwu.
Steward On For Prem Debut
Tigers academy player Freddie Steward replaces Jordan Olowofela to make his Gallagher Premiership debut.
Cameron Neild and Gus Warr replace Josh Beaumont and Faf de Klerk.
The conversion is missed.
De Klerk Scores
Tigers hold strong in the scrum, but De Klerk picks and goes from the base and just about gets the ball down for 25-5.
Tom Hardwick is on for Joe Ford.
Sale Push On
Sale have kick on a gear in the last coupe of minutes, and are now pushing deep into Tiger territory.
Leicester give away a penalty five metres out, and there's a bit of pushing and shoving from both teams.
Sam Lewis comes on to replace Mike Williams in the Tigers pack.
Faf de Klerk is back on the field after 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Campese Ma'afu is on for Facundo Gigena.
Fast and Furious
That must be the longest passage of play we've enjoyed all evening.
Sale look dangerous with the ball, but David Feao thinks fast to turnover the ball on the floor. Once the ball makes it back into Sale hands, Olowofela does a great job to stop Solomona on the left and we have another scrum.
Guy Thompson, who has put in an absolute shift this evening, is replaced by Will Evans in the Tigers back row.
Rob Webber and James Phillips are replaced by Curtis Langdon and Matt Postlethwaite.
Olowofela Beyond The Ball
The visitors ship the ball across to Jordan Olowofela, who is just beyond the pass. Sale scrum.
Fast, Fluid Play
Aspland-Robinson makes a half-break as he pops up on the opposite wing. Sarto drops the ball into touch, but this is the most promising passage of play Tigers have shown all game.
Tigers Try To Play Quickly
Tigers try to play quickly from the scrum, but the ball is spilled on the far side and Sale come away with it.
Sam James kicks to touch on halfway, but Holmes takes a quick lineout to keep the ball in play.
Kick To Corner
Tigers kick to the corner and gather the lineout, but there's a high tackle and Ford takes the opportunity to pin Sale back on their five metre line once again.
The away side set up the driving maul from the second lineout, but the ball goes to ground just in front of the posts. Carley calls the ball unplayable and so Tigers have the scrum, right on the Sale line.
De Klerk Yellow Card
Tigers chip ahead after gathering the restart, but Olowofela is taken in the air by Faf de Klerk, who receives a yellow card.
Cameron Redpath replaces Luke James.
Tom Youngs and Will Spencer are replaced by Jake Kerr and Harry Wells.
Tom Bristow is on for Valery Morozov in the Sale front row.
Faf de Klerk misses the conversion.
Sale go for the big push at scrum time, and Josh Beaumont splinters from the back to score his side's fourth and make it 20-5.
David Feao is on for Joe Heyes.
Held Up Over The Line
Sale try and make their one-man advantage count immediately, but Tigers won't have it.
The home side recycle the ball time after time to no avail, and try and get the ball out to Solomona on the nearside. Olowofela does brilliantly to hold up man and ball over the line, so we'll have a five metre scrum.
Sione Kalamafoni is shown a red card after referee Matthew Carley looks at replays of a clear out on the far side.
Deep In Tiger Territory
Sale get the ball out of the scrum quickly once again, and this time is Arron Reed released on the left hand side. He kicks ahead, but excellent cover from Jordan Olowofela means the ball is kicked dead.
We're still inside the Tigers 22 as the game gets back udnerway.
Knock On Under High Ball
After some more scrum resets, De Klerk box kicks high into the air. Holmes thinks he's got it, but a Solomona tackle spills the ball and we're back for more scrummaging.
Neither team can string together more than a couple of phases at the moment.
The ball hangs high in the air, and the kick is missed.
De Klerk digs the ball out of the scrum, and the Sharks push on up in midfield. Tigers initially hold them back on the line, but it's Valery Morozov who crosses the whitewash to make it 15-5 to the hosts.
Tigers Press On
Tigers know the next score could be crucial, and they're playing with a real hunger out there. Eastmond makes a half-break in midfield, but Kalamafoni is unlucky to knock on just a couple of phases later. Sale scrum.
Will Griff John is off for a HIA, replaced by Joe Jones.
Breaking The Line
Conditions have really cleared up here at the AJ Bell, and it's allowing Tigers to put the ball through hands.
Sale are doing their best to match the visitors at the physical contest, though, and there are a few tired lungs out there as Sarto is tackled into touch just beyond halfway.
Brief Break In Play
Both teams have come out firing in this second half, and after an early Tigers lineout there are some big hits going in. We stop briefly for treatment to a Sale player, before restarting with a Tigers scrum.
Holmes clears really well, with a kick that sits up just on the tryline, and James is forced into a clearing kick of his own. Tigers lineout on the five metre line.
Second Half Underway
Joe Ford gets us underway in this second half.
Tigers On Tour
Sale 10-5 Tigers
Simmons digs the ball out of a solid Tigers scrum, and grubber kicks through on this nearside for Jonah Holmes. Luke James gathers, and engages Joe Ford in a spot of kick tennis.
But Sale chase really well, and think they've charged down in the corner. Carley checks with TMO Graham Hughes, but the player was offside and Tigers win the ball back. Phew.
Sale Sharks Break
The hosts thought they were through, then, after taking the ball at the lineout. But RJ van Rensburg knocks on and we're back where we started this passage of play, with a scrum on halfway.
Ford Kicks On
Tigers take the lineout, and win the advantage after the hosts are pinged for side entry.
We initially play on, but Matthew Carley brings play back for the initial penalty and Ford kicks beyond halfway.
Sale once again ship the ball quickly out of the scrum, this time onto the right wing where Solomna lays in wait once again.
The referee calls maul as he's held up in the tackle, and as it's no longer playable Tigers end up with the feed at the next scrum.
The visitors pluck the ball out, recycle the ball well, and win another penalty. Joe Ford, who has just returned from his yellow card, kicks beyond the 22 for a lineout.
Sale Surge Forward
Sale look to use the ball quickly out of the scrum, and kick ahead back on this nearside. Olowofela initially gathers on the floor, but the ball just escapes his fingertips and we've got another knock on, and *another* scrum.
Knock On At The Lineout
The ball still resembles a bar of soap out there, and Thompson is unlucky to knock on as Tigers look to form the rolling maul. Scrum to Sale.
Tigers truck the ball up, and work their way up the field, metre by metre.
Sale hooker Rob Webber is pinged by Matthew Carley for slowing down the ball in what would usually be kickable range, but in the conditions Tigers decide to kick to the corner through Simmons.
The wind hasn't abated, though, and De Klerk's kick fades scross the front of goal.
Sale Score A Second
The rain has eased for the moment, and Sale make the most of it to put the ball through the hands. Denny Solomona pops up on this left side to dot the ball down and, after a check with the TMO, the try is awarded for 10-5 to the hosts.
De Klerk doesn't manage to add the extras, so the score is pinned at 5-5.
Yellow Card For Tigers
Joe Ford is yellow carded for the deliberate knock on.
De Klerk digs the ball out the back of the scrum, and Joe Ford goes for the interception with one hand. Bryn Evans picks up the loose ball and scores his side's first try of the night, 5-5.
Sale Run The Phases
Sale put together the longest run of phases of the match so far, but big hits from Sione Kalamafoni and Guy Thompson mean they're not making much ground.
De Klerk puts in a chip for Arron Reed on this near side, but Jonah Holmes is there to gather. We restart with a five metre scrum.
These conditions aren't quite conducive to running rugby at the moment, and it's showing.
Tigers hold strong at the scrum, and Leonardo Sarto chases a speculative box kick from Harry Simmons, who's had a solid game so far. Sale spill the ball, though, and the ball goes out for another lineout.
Tigers Hold Strong
The scrum is reset *again*, but this time Sale come away with the ball. The Tigers line hold strong, and so the home side try to find a way through on their left wing.
Sam James makes a break, and does his best to feed James O'Connor, but the Australian knocks on ahead of the line as Olowofela and Holmes were sprinting across to cover.
Sale Pinged At The Scrum
Sale get pinged at the next reset, and Joe Ford boots the ball up from the free kick for a lineout just inside the visitors' half.
The Sharks steal the lineout, but De Klerk knocks on and we're down for another scrum.
Tigers once again take the ball from the kick off, but as Olowofela tries to make another trademark break up his left wing, he knocks the ball on.
We scrum down, but Carley is keen to get this right and we reset three times before the ball is eventually shipped out on Leicester's side.
De Klerk Misses
Tigers take the restart well and kick for territory, but as Sale come back at the Leicester line skipper Tom Youngs puts in a massive hit.
Matthew Carley adjudges him not to have released the player, though, and De Klerk points to the posts. His kick is just wide, to the left.
After resetting the ball onto the tee, Joe Ford just slices the ball wide in the wind. Tigers lead 0-5.
Jordan Olowofela makes a tasty break down the left wing, and is stopped just short of the line. But the ball is recycled well, and after a check with the TMO it's Facundo Gigena who gets the ball onto the whitewash for his first try in Tigers colours.
Pass Into Touch
After a Tigers lineout goes awry, Sale have a scrum just inside their own half. De Klerk looks to release his outside backs, but has passed into touch and we;re set for the fourth lineout of the match inside four minutes...
Early Tigers Pressure
Two early lineouts help Tigers into Sharks territory, with an early scrum on the home side's 22. This weather is absolutely filthy, though, and De Klerk boots the ball into the stands to relieve the pressure.
Kick Off At Sale
...and we're underway! Faf de Klerk boots the ball into a soaking Salford night to kick off the game.
Teams Are Out
Tom Youngs leads Tigers, in their white and purple alternate kit, onto the field here in Salford. We're just moment away from kick off in this latest round of Premiership action!
Late Change For Tigers
George Worth has pulled up in the warm-up, so there are a couple of tweaks to the announced team.
Sam Aspland-Robinson shifts from 11 to outside centre and Jordan Olowofela comes off the bench to start on the left wing.
Freddie Steward comes onto the bench, wearing 23.
Welcome To Matchday Live!
Welcome to Matchday Live from the AJ Bell Stadium, where Tigers take on Sale in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership this evening.