Leicester Tigers were beaten 36-3 as Marland Yarde claimed three of the five tries for Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday evening.
Sharks went into Round 11 with a won-five, lost-five record and sitting in third place in the table, and claimed three first-half tries to take a grip of proceedings on a windy and chilly evening in the North-West.
All three scores came in the closing 10 minutes of the half after Tigers had started with a Noel Reid penalty.
But, after being pushed back by a series of penalties, and with skipper Dan Cole yellow-carded, Tigers conceded scores from Bryn Evans, Yarde and Coenie Oosthuizen before the break.
Playing into the wind in the second half, it was always going to be tough against a Sharks side with one of the best defensive records in the country.
Tigers also lost Noel Reid to the sin bin and then Yarde added the bonus-point try and another for good measure.
Sharks included England flanker Mark Wilson for his first start in a season’s loan from Newcastle, and there was a late call-up for wing Denny Solomona when Chris Ashton was withdrawn during the warm-up.
Tigers were without their five England players as well as the injured Ben White, Sione Kalamafoni and Jordan Taufua as they got the game started and had points on the board as Reid kicked the opening points with just four minutes played.
They defended the lead with some strong work across the halfway line, with Tomás Lavanini and Jaco Taute prominent until the South African left the field with a shoulder injury, giving Johnny McPhillips his Premiership debut off the bench.
Reid struck the post with another penalty before Sale finally gained territory down the right and they stayed there as Tigers were penalised three times at defensive lineouts, judged to have gone too early with the ball in the air, and finally captain Cole was shown the yellow.
The visitors remained stubborn in defence, with Reffell at the heart of more good work in the middle of the field, and then they wrapped up man and ball to frustrate the home team just a few metres out from the tryline.
But with Cole waiting to get back on field at the end of his 10 minutes and Tigers looking to have weathered a storm, they were finally breached when Evans charged down a clearing kick from Jack Van Poortvliet and saw the ball bounce back into his hands to score.
Sharks added to the lead when Yarde raced on to a delayed pass in midfield for a straight run to the line and Rob Du Preez added the conversion to make it 12-3.
An enterprising attack using the blindside stretched Tigers again and, although Sharks had progress stalled near the line, eventually they set up one more phase and prop Oosthuizen reached over to score his first Premiership try. The conversion made it 19-3 at half-time.
The second half opened with rain sweeping across the field and Tigers having to play out from deep before losing Reid to a yellow card for a tackle on Yarde on the touchline which the referee reviewed with his TMO.
Reffell was replaced by Harry Wells as Sharks kicked to the left-hand corner and he got fingertips to the Sharks throw, forcing an error rewarded with scrum put-in.
Match referee Tempest, though, awarded Sharks a free-kick at the set-piece, followed by a penalty which they pushed into the corner as they searched for their bonus-pint score. But Lavanini and Wells latched on to the ball and won the turnover.
A dart from scrum-half Will Cliff threatened until Sharks dropped ball in attack and 18-year-old debutant Van Poortvliet kicked clear.
But Sharks were then awarded a penalty at a scrum 20 metres out from the Tigers line and Du Preez added the points for a 22-3 lead.
Kyle Eastmond took the captaincy when Cole made way on 66 minutes, but Tigers were penned back as Yarde completed his hat-trick with tries in the 68th and 72nd minute.
First, the wing finished from a Rob Du Preez pass on the left and then latched on to a kick from Sam James to add another with the fly-half adding both conversions on a miserable evening for the visitors.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Thank you to all of those who braved grim conditions to support the boys in Salford this evening, and to all of you following on Matchday Live elsewhere.
We'll see you back at Welford Road next Saturday, February 29 (3.00pm) when Tigers take on Worcester Warriors.
FULL TIME | 36-3
A miserable evening in the North West for Tigers, who go down 36 points to three at the AJ Bell.
END OF PLAY
...but it's no more than a penalty, and Sale opt to tap and kick the ball straight out for the end of the game.
The clock's in the red, but we'll come back for a high tackle by Leicester No21 on the far side...
Sam Lewis does his best to disrupt the Sharks maul, but referee Tempest calls for Sale to use their possession, and scrum-half Warr clears up.
Not Tigers' evening, by any stretch.
Sale win a scrum just inside the Leicester half, and rub salt into the wound by kicking to the corner.
TRIO OF CHANGES
Sale empty add Gus Warr, Tom Curtis and No23 Reed for Cliff, Du Preez and Solomona.
DU PREEZ CONVERTS
The conversion curls inside the left-hand post, and Sale now have 36 points.
Yarde is over in the same corner, this time pouncing on a Sam James kick-through.
Sam Lewis has replaced Ifereimi Boladau in the Tigers back row.
TWO MORE CHANGES
Sale hooker Rob Webber is swapped for Curtis Langdon, while Bryn Evans is off for Matt Postlethwaite.
Du Preez nails the conversion, and the Sharks now lead 29 points to three.
The ball comes back into the hands of Marland Yarde on the left-hand side, and he dives over for Sale's fourth score of the night.
Sale skipper Jono Ross leaves the field as he is replaced by James Phillips.
NOT A NIGHT FOR RUNNING RUGBY...
Tigers go through the hands as they attempt to fight their way up the field into the prevailing wind, but nothing will stick.
Instead, Yarde gobbles up a Noel Reid chip and almost puts Hammersley through a hole. Almost.
Tigers string together some nice phases - partly down to some crisp service from the base by new scrum-half Simmons - but the men in fluoro-red just cannot batter the door down.
Then, just as they start to nudge up a couple of metres, Sale win a penalty and boot the ball back downfield.
FREE KICK TO TIGERS
Tigers win a free-kick of their own moments later, and the visitors are back on the front foot, pushing up into the Sale half.
Joe Batley is on the field in place of Tomás Lavanini.
ON THE HOUR
Tigers take the lineout on the far side and look to set up a maul, but nothing seems to be sticking this evening ... the pack is down on the floor, and Tempest seems to think it's through Leicester. Sale win a free-kick.
SIMMONS FOR JVP
Jack van Poortvliet's debut is complete - Harry Simmons is now on at scrum-half.
TIGERS PRESS ON
The visitors string together some quick passes to find space out on the left, but almost - almost - give away the interception pass.
The Sale runner drops it, though, and Tempest signals for another scrum.
Noel Reid returns from the sin bin, while Greg Bateman is swapped for Nephi Leatigaga on the loosehead.
CHANGE AT HOOKER
Jake Kerr replaces Tatafu Polota-Nau in the Tigers front row.
THREE MORE POINTS
...and it's a good kick. Sale have three more points.
Tigers have a scrum after Sale knock on, but Bateman is penalised at the shoving contest and so the hosts have a shot at goal...
UP THE TEMPO
But Sale fire a s hot off the top of their lineout as scrum-half Cliff finds half a gap in the Tigers lines, and gets his side right back up to the five-metre line.
Van Poortvliet clears from the back of a Tigers scrum to find some metres along the touchline.
18 FOR 3
Will-Griff John repaces Jake Cooper-Woolley in the Sharks front row.
Tempest's assistant calls Cole down on the near side, but there's a Sale knock on as the ball comes out to the backs, and we'll come back for the original penalty.
Wells is straight into the action, and he spoils the Sharks lineout on his own line ... but referee Tempest adjudges him to have knocked on. Scrum down.
BACK ROW CHANGE
Harry Wells is on in place of Tommy Reffell.
YELLOW CARD | NOEL REID
There's contact to the head, but there's mitigation through the fact that Yarde was falling into the tackle ... Reid is shown a yellow card.
TMO | HIGH TACKLE?
Sale break through Simon Hammersley and then Yarde on the left-hand side, but the former England wing is brought down by Veainu and then caught high by Reid.
We'll look at replays to check possible sanction.
Van Poortvliet kicks clear, and Sale will have a lineout on the far side.
THROUGH THE PHASES
The rain drives down yet harder, here, and the home side go through the phases as they nudge into the Tigers 22.
SECOND HALF UNDERWAY
Sale kick off in the second half of this Round 11 tie.
MATCH ACTION | THREE FROM THE TEE
Noel Reid scores a Tigers penalty during the first half in Salford.
HALF TIME | 19-3
Sale have a 16-point lead over Tigers as we go into half-time at the AJ Bell. A big second half needed, here.
Du Preez adds the extras from the tee in the swirling rain, and that will be the final action of this first half.
There's nothing in the replays that can change Tempest's mind, and the score is awarded to Jake Cooper-Woolley.
TMO | POSSIBLE TRY...
Sale are over the line once more, with referee Tempest calling a try as his on-field decision, but we'll check with Trevor Fisher...
Steve Diamond's men hammer through the phases and win the penalty under the posts, but chip the ball under penalty advantage. Veainu calims it, so we'll come back...
SALE SURGE FORWARD
Neat work from Sale through scrum-half Will Cliff as he dummies off the back of Sharks lineout and comes round the corner to feed Denny Solomona, a late pre-match replacement for Chris Ashton.
They make it up to Tigers' five-metre line.
DU PREEZ CONVERTS
Du Preez has to reset the ball on the tee, but he takes his shortened run-up and ... it's over. Conversion good.
SALE SCORE A SECOND
A hole opens up on the far side for Marland Yarde to skate through, and Sale have a second score.
Du Preez cannot convert the score, so Sale's lead is just two points with more than half an hour played.
BACK TO 15 MEN
Cole rejoins the action after 10 minutes on the sidelines, and Olowofela is restored on the wing as Heyes takes his place in the dugout once more.
CHARGE DOWN TRY
Bryn Evans climbs highest to charge down a Tigers box kick, and Sale have the first try of the game.
FROM THE BASE
Ifereimi Boladau comes out from the back of the scrum with the ball in hand, finds some metres on the right and finds time for his mates to come and ruck over the top.
The home side look to go again from the throw, but the ball is unplayable on the floor. Scrum restart.
Sale set up a strong-looking maul from their lineout in the Tigers 22, but Tommy Reffell - now acting as captain - manages to stop the man at the back.
...not quite yet, though. Van Poortvliet will have the put-in at another scrum...
...and Sale win the penalty. Rob du Preez kicks to the far corner for touch.
LOST THE BIND
No such luck on the next scrum, though, as Sale win the ball.
We'll see some phases in this game soon, surely...
Tigers have a scrum in their own half, and so Jordan Olowofela is sacrificed for Joe Heyes to come on at tighthead prop.
And ... Tigers win the penalty. Johnny McPhillips, stationed at fly-half with Reid shifted to 13, kicks deep into the Sale half.
REFFELL RIPS THE BALL!
Sale look to set from their fourth throw-in, before going to the backs ... but Tommy Reffell rips the ball from the man and Tigers are out of their quarter of the field.
YELLOW CARD | DAN COLE
Sale look to make it third time lucky at the lineout - this time on Leicester's five-metre line - but the lifter is taken early once again, and Tigers captain Dan Cole is shown a yellow card.
The Sharks go quickly from their throw, and there are jeers around the stadium as there's a possible obstruction in the 13 channel.
But referee Ian Tempest has spotted an incident at the lineout, and we'll go back for another go...
UNDER THE HIGH BALL
Jonah Holmes does a great job of taking a high ball on the right-hand touchline, but as the ball is fed back infield Tigers knock on in the centre of the pitch.
Sale capitalise with a kick to touch, and Rob Webber will have a throw on the edge of the Tigers 22...
MCPHILLIPS MAKES PREMIERSHIP DEBUT
Johnny McPhillips joins the action earlier than expected for his Gallagher Premiership debut, in the place of Jaco Taute.
The outside centre looks to have injured his shoulder.
TO ME, TO YOU...
Tigers won't have it all their own way at scrum-time this evening, though. Sale win this one just outside their 22.
OFF THE WOODWORK!
Te fly-half makes a decent connection with the ball from the tee, it rises ... and it's off the post! Unlucky.
POINT TO POSTS
Reid will have another shot at goal after Jake Cooper-Woolley doubles down on his scrum penalty and goes off his feet at the breakdown.
Greg Bateman draws the penalty on the nearside, and Reid puts the ball deep into Sharks territory for a Leicester throw.
"KNOCK ON, BLUE"
Telusa Veainu clears up at the back with a safe kick into touch, and while the Sharks gather their lineout throw, they can't string the phases together off the back; and knock on once, then twice, in midfield.
Tigers have the put in at a scrum just inside their own half.
Debut scrum-half Jack van Poortvliet looks to the sky with a testing box kick, and the Sale defenders are back on their heels as they look to gather the ball.
...and it's through. Tigers have the first points of this game through fly-half Reid.
FOR THE POSTS
The visitors have an early kick at goal after Hanro Liebenberg gets over the ball on the edge of the Sale 22. Noel Reid prepares himself...
LAVANINI CUT DOWN
Tigers have the, ahem, 'lion's' share of possession in the early stages, but the men in fluoro-red are met by a stern defence. Tomás Lavanini is cut down in midfield.
KICK OFF AT SALE
Noel Reid gets Tigers underway in Round 11 of the Gallagher Premiership.
And, just like clockwork, here comes the rain...
ON TO THE FIELD
Dan Cole leads Leicester Tigers on to the field at the AJ Bell.
FIVE MINUTES TO GO
Both teams head up the tunnel after completing their final warm-ups, and we're just moments away from kick-off in the Gallagher Premiership.
CONFIRMED TEAM NEWS
Head coach Geordan Murphy has been forced into shuffling his pack ahead of this Round 11 fixture.
Tatafu Polota-Nau replaces suspended club captain Tom Youngs at hooker, while there are places for Tommy Reffell and Ifereimi Boladau in the back row with Jordan Taufua and Sione Kalamafoni ruled out by injury this week.
Jack van Poortvliet starts at scrum-half for the first time in the Gallagher Premiership, and both Noel Reid and Jordan Olowofela are recalled to the backline.
Summer signing Johnny McPhillips could also make his league debut for the club after being named among the replacements.
Sharks boss Diamond gives a first start to England back-rower Mark Wilson as one of the changes to the starting line-up since defeat at Saracens in Round 10. Coenie Oosthuizen and Jake Cooper-Woolley start in the front row, and Marland Yarde comes into the backline with Byron McGuigan on international duty with Scotland.
See the full match line-ups by clicking here, or scrolling down on this page.
LIEBENBERG TALKS UP SOUTH AFRICAN BATTLE
Cape Town-born back-rower Hanro Liebenberg made his long-awaited return from injury in Tigers’ win over Wasps in Round 10.
And, after retaining the No6 shirt for the trip the AJ Bell, the 24-year-old will come up against some familiar faces this evening.
“I’ve played with Jean-Luc and Dan du Preez at South Africa U20s, so I know their characteristics,” he told LeicesterTigers.com.
“I know they’ll be up for it and it’ll be a good battle against the other South Africans, but most importantly it’s a team effort.
“While it’s obviously good playing against those guys, as a pack we need to front up and put in another strong performance.”
Read more of Liebenberg’s chat with LeicesterTigers.com here.
CAPTAIN COLE PREVIEWS SHOWDOWN WITH SALE
LTTV caught up with Tigers tighthead Dan Cole this week, ahead of skippering his childhood club for the first time (from the off, at least).
“We might be taking a few more scrums,” he laughed, when asked about his approach to the role.
The 98-cap international also discussed the hard-fought win over Wasps last time out, the importance of leadership in the squad plus the inclusion of Jack van Poortvliet for his Premiership debut at scrum-half.
You can watch captain Cole’s full interview with LTTV, right here.
MATCH PREVIEW | TIGERS VERSUS SHARKS
Leicester Tigers reach the halfway mark in the Gallagher Premiership season with a trip to Salford this evening.
Tigers travel on the back of a home win over Wasps in Round 10 to face a Sharks team who sit third in the league table with a won five, lost five record so far.
Steve Diamond’s Sharks are also third in terms of tries scored (28) and in defence; with top-of-the-table Exeter and defending champions Saracens conceding just one point fewer than their record of 170 so far.
See all the important facts and stats in our full match preview here, or scroll down on this page.
WELCOME TO MATCHDAY LIVE!
We’re LIVE from the AJ Bell Stadium for Leicester Tigers’ Gallagher Premiership fixture with the Sale Sharks, with kick-off to come at 7.45pm.
Follow all the action as it happens with our Matchday Live coverage, right here on the Tigers App and LeicesterTigers.com.