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Tigers end pre-season with Welford Road win

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Leicester Tigers ended their Kings of the North campaign with a 35-17 bonus-point victory over Sale Sharks at Welford Road on Saturday.

Tigers warmed up for the start of the new Aviva Premiership campaign at London Irish next Sunday with a fourth successive victory of the summer.

While they were unable to secure the 36-point winning margin they needed to land the Kings of the North crown - that title went to visitors Sale on point difference - they were still able to score four tries in a good all-round performance to finish of their pre-season work.

Peter Betham scored the opener in the first half and there were second half tries for Tom Croft, Tommy Bell and Academy wing Paolo Odogwu.

Prop Logovi'i Mulipola made his return from injury and packed down on the loosehead side. He was joined in the front row by Fraser Balmain and summer signing Greg Bateman.

Lachlan McCaffrey and Mike Williams, two other summer arrivals, started in the back row alongside Croft while Mike Fitzgerald was joined in the second row by Sebastian de Chaves.

Peter Betham started at centre alongside Seremaia Bai and there was a place on the bench for Academy scrum-half Ben White.

Tigers went into the game needing to win by 36 points, with a bonus point and deny Sale a bonus point, to land the Kings of the North crown.

And Tigers raced out of the blocks to score a try after just four minutes.

There were some huge collisions in the early exchanges with Fitzgerald and Mulipola bouncing through the tackles of Will Addison and James Flynn. It allowed Tigers the chance to force Sale deep into their own 22 and gave Betham the space to angle his run through the visitors' defence for the opening try. Burns landed the conversion to put Tigers 7-0 ahead.

Sale threatened a swift response when Sam Tuitupou's break created space for Charlie Ingall on the left flank but Mathew Tait raced across to tackle man and ball into touch 5m from the line.

At the other end, Burns landed a pen from the right after Sale were ruled offside to move Tigers 10-0 ahead after 13 minutes.

Sale were a threat with ball in hand and put together a brilliant break to take them from the edge of their 22 to within sight the Leicester line, but Tuitupou was forced to put a foot in touch by Tait's tackle as he tried to touch down.

However, Tigers were unable to secure their lineout ball and Sale hooker Tommy Taylor took advantage to score from close range. Danny Cipriani's conversion left Tigers 10-7 ahead.

Referee Craig Maxwell-Keys then whistled Mulipola for a late tackle on Cipriani, who levelled the scores with the resulting penalty.

Burns came off for some running repairs and returned to the pitch to kick Tigers back into the lead with a penalty six minutes from half-time.

Tigers had Sale under the pressure from the restart, Burns's intelligent running sucked in defenders and allowed Tait to find touch 10m from the Sharks line. But Sale secured their ball and Cipriani found a 25m touch.

Tigers continued to press, inviting their big ball carriers to hit it up. Eventually the pressure told and Sale were pinged for offside and Burns's penalty gave Leicester a 16-10 half-time lead.

Riccardo Brugnara and Laurence Pearce replaced Mulipola and Seb de Chaves at half-time. Williams moved into the second row with Pearce slotting in at No8.

Tigers had to withstand some pressure from the Sharks early in the second half, who twice went to the corner with kickable penalties.

But they stood up well in defence and Betham intercepted Cipriani's long pass 10m from his line to turn defence into attack. He was eventually tackled on the Sale 22 but had Adam Thompstone in close support, who found Croft to cross for Tigers' second score. Burns converted to move Tigers 23-10 ahead.

George Catchpole replaced Smith before the game restarted.

Tigers were again called on to show their defensive resilience when Sale kicked to the corner. Tigers held up the drive and when replacement scrum-half Peter Stringer tried to dive over the ruck to score he was stripped of possession by Harrison, who cleared long.

Tigers piled on the pressure at the other end in search of a third try. Burns's crossfield kick found Croft on the left but the Sale defence drifted across to close him out. Back Tigers came to the opposite flank where Betham's pass found Bell, on as a replacement, in acres of space to cross.

It left Tigers 28-10 ahead with 20 minutes remaining.

However, rather than hunt the bonus-point fourth try, Tigers were forced to defend a series of 5m scrums. And their task was made even more difficult when Harry Thacker, thinking the ball was playable, was shown a yellow card for coming round the side of a ruck.

Sale made the extra man count immediately, sending the ball to the left where Mark Jennings burrowed over from close range. Joe Ford added the extras to leave Tigers 28-17 ahead.

Tigers threatened a fourth try in the closing stages when they had Sale backpedalling with a maul in midfield. It was illegally dragged down giving Tigers a penalty in a central position with time up.

Fonua, who had received a large amount of ball following his introduction as a replacement, was the decoy this time and created the space on the right for Paolo Odogwu to dive over at the corner. Burns landed the conversion with the final kick of the game.

Match Details

HT ScoreHalf Time Score

LEI 0-0 SAL

FT ScoreFull Time Score

LEI 35-17 SAL

Attendance

10,000

Referee

Not available

Leicester Tigers
Leicester Tigers
35

Full Time

Sale Sharks
Sale Sharks
17
Form Guide
Form
DWDDD
Last Match
Draw with Brive null-null
Past Meeting
Lost 31-40
Form
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Past Meeting
Form
LWLWW
Last Match
Beat Worcester Warriors 20-13
Past Meeting
Won 40-31

Matchday Live

Leicester Tigers35
Leicester Tigers
Sale Sharks17
Sale Sharks
Full Time