A late penalty try gave Sale Sharks an 18-16 victory over Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in the third round of the Premiership Rugby Cup on Friday evening.
It meant a third successive defeat in the knockout competition for the Tigers before the return to Gallagher Premiership action next weekend.
Sale took an early eight-point lead with a penalty from debutant Rob Du Preez and a try from hooker Rob Webber, but Tom Hardwick kept Tigers within striking range with a couple of penalties.
A try from Guy Thompson finally levelled the scores, with Hardwick kicking the touchline conversion to put Tigers in front at 13-11 on the stroke of half-time.
Hardwick extended the lead with another penalty as Welford Road was caught in torrential rain throughout, but Sharks dominated territory in the second half and finally got their rewards with a penalty try from a lineout drive with just three minutes remaining.
There was still one more opportunity to snatch a home victory, but Hardwick was wide of the target with his final kick.
Tigers welcomed Mike Fitzgerald back into the squad for the first time since the opening day of the season following surgery on a knee injury and gave a first start to Gaston Cortes in the front row.
Wearing a shirt featuring the centenary ‘Thank You’ poppy logo, Tigers received the kick-off following the playing of The Last Post and two-minute silence, and managed their exit from the 22 as heavy rain fell on Welford Road.
An early lineout steal by Mike Williams in front of the dugout gave Tigers set-piece ball and the big blindside then secured ball on his own throw to set up a solid drive, but Hardwick’s kick was too long and Sale were given an opportunity to clear.
Penalised at the next breakdown near halfway, Sharks were pushed back again but fierce defence on the gainline gave Tigers no chance to build on that territory.
Sharks, though, built on two penalties down their left, the second for a no-arms tackle by Kyle Eastmond, and play was brought back after George Worth had covered a kick through into the corner. The visitors elected for the kick and Du Preez gave them a three-point lead with 10 minutes gone on the clock.
Gareth Owen was penalised as he tried to win turnover ball on the edge of the Tigers 22, and Sharks went to the corner to set up a drive. They eventually managed to get play into the right-hand corner but were held up over the tryline.
The referee, though was already playing an advantage and brought play back for another penalty on their left flank and they made it count with an opening try.
It was hooker Rob Webber who made the decisive for the line to make it 8-0 to the visitors, though Du Preez was off-target with the conversion attempt from the touchline.
Tigers had spent too long in their own defensive zone, but finally got forward with a teasing kick from Ben White and set-piece ball on the right which found the Sharks backline offside and allowed Tom Hardwick to kick his opening points of the evening on 21 minutes.
Immediately from the restart, Tigers were penalised as they spilled ball just 25 metres from their own line and Du Preez made it 3-11 with the kick.
Hardwick had another sight of the posts on 25 minutes after Ben Curry was whistled for hands in a ruck and he struck it straight and true to cut the gap to five points.
The Tigers forwards were getting frustrated with the Sharks at the breakdown, and skipper Tom Youngs made his feelings known to referee Simon Harding, but the next penalty went to Sharks for offside and Tigers were marched back for a show of dissent. The extra 10 metres took it well within range for Du Preez but he was off-target and the score remained 6-11.
Worth’s superb catch of a high ball should have brought better reward but Sharks won back possession near halfway before being penalised as ball fell loose in the soaking conditions.
Referee Harding spoke to Youngs about Tigers discipline when the skipper was penalised near the touchline, but Tigers got through some hard work in defence to eventually force spilled ball. With advantage over, though, they kicked long and play was brought back up to their own 22 again before Tigers managed to win set-piece ball and clear.
Tigers produced a massive scrum to push Sharks off their own ball on their 22 and they stayed close to the line, using the forwards to carry until Thompson ran in on the right to level the scores as the clock hit 40 minutes. Hardwick’s superb kick from the touchline made it 13-11 at the break.
Mike Fitzgerald replaced Mike Williams at half-time, with Tigers kicking off towards the Mattioli Woods Stand end, but the opening phases of the game were littered with errors and spills as the rain made handling ever more difficult.
Youngs made way for Jake Kerr on 48 minutes, with Ben White taking over as captain, while Sharks replaced Du Preez with teenager Kieran Wilkinson.
A sense of adventure from Jordan Olowofela, chasing his own chip over the Sharks defence near halfway, brought another penalty when Sale were pressured in their own half, and Hardwick landed the kick to stretch the lead to 16-11 on 55 minutes.
Another 10 minutes passed with neither side able to build any phases of possession or real territory advantage, though pressure on the scrum-half’s box-kicking meant Tigers were finding it difficult to fully clear their lines.
They were still pinned back when Sharks looked to build on a lineout drive but forced a spill as the visitors attacked the line.
But they remained under pressure, a bouncing ball pushing Thompson back to his own line before replacement Tommy Reffell earned some respite with a penalty award as he contested possession almost on his own tryline.
A shapeless encounter swung from set-piece to set-piece though Sharks had another opportunity when Olowofela was called for a deliberate knock-on as he rushed up in defence.
Sharks chipped towards the corner on their right having spent the bulk of the half in the Tigers 22 and had another penalty after a tackle by replacement prop Facundo Gigena. They stayed in the corner and Gigena was sin-binned as he brought down another lineout drive with less than four minutes remaining on the clock.
Sale made the most of the advantage, driving straight over from the next lineout as the referee signalled for a penalty try. Under new rulings, that meant they required no conversion but were 16-18 in front.
From the restart, Tigers won a prenalty 35 metres out but Hardwick lost his 100 per cent record as he failed to connect cleanly and the pushed it wide.
There was to be no further opportunity as the game ended in midfield, Sale showing their aggression in defence to force Tigers into one final error.
THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT
Thank you to everyone who has joined us here at Welford Road on a wet and windy night. Tigers face Gloucester as the Gallagher Premiership returns this time next week.
Tigers are back at Welford Road on Sunday, November 25 for the visit of Saracens. Match tickets are available by contacting the Tigers ticket office.
IT'S OVER AT WELFORD ROAD
Simon Harding calls time on the match and Sale claim the victory this wet Friday evening. A penalty try decides Tigers third Premiership Rugby Cup fixture with the final scores Tigers 16 Sale Sharks 18.
TIGERS PRESS FOR WINNER
Tigers collect the ball with less than a minute on the clock with Matt Smith looking to make tracks down the centre, He's held up though and Tigers knock on giving Sale the penalty as the clock runs down. That could be it.
TIGERS MISS CONVERSION
Tigers restart and are immediately awarded a penalty as Sale are penalised for an off feet tackle. Hardwick aims for the posts...but misses his first kick of the game.
Sale are awarded a penalty try after repeated infringements by the Tigers defence close to their tryline. Sale take the lead with three minutes left on the clock.
FACUNDO YELLOW CARD
Tigers forward Gigena is shown a yellow card for persistent penalties and Tigers are down to 14.
RAIN POURS DOWN
The rain continues to pour down heavily as the Tigers defence resist the Sale attack. Tigers work Sale across the pitch but are penalised for dangerous play. It's another Sharks penalty.
BREAK IN PLAY
Both teams go back and forth but Sale break down their right hand side towards the Tigers five metre line. It's knocked out of play for a Sale line out deep in Tigers territory. It's a Sale free kick at the line out.
Tigers centre Gareth Owen makes way for Andrew Forsyth.
TIGERS DEFENCE WORKING HARD
Sale break from the scrum and continue to run at the Tigers defence. Tigers force the knock on and full back George Worth clears Tigers lines.
PLAY STILL IN TIGERS HALF
Tigers replacement Tommy Reffell forces the error from Sale and Tigers have the line-out following a Joe Ford clearence. Sale win the ball back and the ref deem's it unplayable awarding Sale the scrum on the Tigers 22.
TIGERS CLEAR LINES
After sustaining a long period of pressure, Tigers win a penalty from the scrum for an early Sale engage. Joe Ford tries to click clear but can't touch ans Sale collect and kick back. A fumble from Tigers allows Sale in and Tigers are back under pressure on their five metre line.
It's Harry Wells off for Tommy Reffell for Tigers. Can the young forward get his second succesive try following his score last weekend against Worcester?
Luke James comes on for James O'Connor at 13.
Tigers scrum-half Sam Harrison comes on for youngster Ben White and Joe Ford comes on for Kyle Eastmond. Hardwick moves to 12.
Sale look to shake things up as they swap their front row bringing on Langdon, Bristow and Jones.
Lets get ready to fumble
It's all got a bit scrappy as both teams are penalised for and we have another knock on in the Tigers half.
It's a swap in the front row for Tigers as Greg Bateman and Gaston Cortes come off for Facundo Gigena and Joe Heyes.
Tigers win the scrum as Sale are penalised for early engagement and break with Jordon Olowofela. He sprints into the Sale half but is bought down by on the Sale five yard line. Sale take the line-out but and clear thier lines as Tigers set for another line out.
SALE GO AGAIN
Sale get us underway again with a high kick into the rain. Tigers catch and work it nicely down their but are held up by the Sharks defence. There's a knock-on and Sale and we set for the scrum.
Tom Hardwick continues to be faultless from the boot as he kicks his forth successful kick of the game. Tigers lead 16-11.
BACK AND FORTH
Both team wrestle for possession with the game flowing from end to end before a break away from Jordan Olowofela chasing his own kick. Tigers are straight at Sale and win a penalty as Sale are penalised for not releasing. Hardwick goes for the posts...
SALE DOUBLE REPLACEMENT
Flay-half Rob Du Preez comes off for Kieran Wilkinson and it's Jono Ross for Cameron Neild in the back row.
VOTE FOR YOUR FANS' FAVOURITE
Tigers skipper Tom Youngs is replaced by young hooker Jake Kerr
Tom Hardwick kicks deep for Tigers from the restart and Sale soak up the early pressure, Tigers work the ball well towards the left flank before the ball goes into touch. Sale line out turns into a maul and Sale push up the pitch. Penalty to Sale and we have our first scrum of the second half.
Mike Fitzgerald comes on for Mike Williams at 6.
SECOND HALF KICKS OFF
Tigers skipper Tom Youngs leads the boys back out for the second half. The rain continues to fall here at Welford Road as the boys now attack the Mattioli Woods Stand. Can they continue the momentum from before the break?
Tigers lead at the break 13-11 following a late Guy Thompson try.
Tigers No.10 Hardwick steps up and kicks from a tight angle on the right touchline. Tigers take the lead for the first time in the game on the half-time whistle to make it 13-11.
With 30 seconds left, Guy Thompson receives the ball out wide and goes over right in the corner. Try for Leicester Tigers!
TIGERS LINE OUT ON SALE 5 METRE LINE
Tigers pile on the pressure and win the line out before working the ball across the pitch.
It's another penalty to Tigers as Sale's loosehead is punished for standing up in the scrum. Tigers kick for the corner and the Welford Road crowd make themselves heard.
TIGERS RECEIVE SCRUM PENALTY
Sale are penalised for illegal wheeling at the scrum giving Hardwick the chance to kick clear.
The Tigers defence is working hard to keep the advancing Sharks at bay. They keep working the ball across the field but can't find a way through. Tigers force the knock on and it's a scrum. There's a break in play as Tom Youngs gets treatment.
IT'S SCRUM TIME
Sale throw the ball in for the line out but it's not straight and the ref calls a scrum. The boys get ready.
Tigers win a penalty as Sale fail to release the ball at the ruck, Tigers press on and force a line out on the Sale 22.
TIGERS CLEAR THEIR LINES
The Tigers defence holds firm and force Sale into a handling error before working the ball to Tom Hardwick who kicks to touch down the right flank. However, the ref pulls back the advantage and we have a Sale line out on the Tigers 22.
Tigers line out
Sale are punished for not releasing the ball and Tom Youngs throws the ball into play. Tigers drive the maul back before a penalty is giving away for Tigers for the same reason. Sale kick into touch down their left flank.
SALE GO THROUGH THE PHASES
Sale win the line out and move the ball from left to right and left again before Tigers defence holds firm on their own 22. Sale struggle to make the yards and Tigers continue to withstand the pressure.
Tigers punished at the breakdown
Following a Tigers line out the ball exchanges possession before Tigers are penalised for a side entry tackle from skipper Tom Youngs. Sale penalty and they kick to touch.
After a series of penalty advantages the ref finally pulls up Sale and awards Tigers a penalty for an off feet challenge. The ball is just in the Tigers half and Tom Hardwick kicks for a line out.
Sale penalty missed
But the Sale No.10 misses and Tigers kick to restart.
Tigers giveway another penalty...
Tigers giveaway another penalty for entering from the side and then the ref marches it forward ten for dissent from the Tigers ranks. It's another chance for Rob Du Preez to kick for the posts.
Tigers hit back this time capitalising on a penalty for hands in the ruck from the restart and Hardwick kicks over. Tigers back in it straight away.
Sale respond immediately from the restart for an offside ruling and Rob Du Preez kicks over the posts.
And he kicks over the posts to give Tigers thier first score of the night.
Tigers win a penalty
Sale are punished for side entry and Tigers fly-half Tom Hardwick opts to kick...
Tigers scrum-half Ben White gets us underway and Tigers pressure the Sharks backline. Both teams set-up a scrum and the ball pops out but the referee waves play on and Tigers work it down the right flank.
Sale's Rob Du Preez misses the conversion as Tigers look to regroup.
Sale's hooker Rob Webber goes over for Sharks as they get teh first try of the game.
Sale work the ball towards Tigers tryline and they think they've gone over. The referee calls it back as the ball is held up and we restart as Tigers kick to touch
Sale advance into Tigers territory
Sale take the ball from the scrum and push into the Tigers half working it nicely across the pitch before Tigers give away another penalty. Sale opt to kick for touch and win the line-out and advance onto Tigers five metre line.
We have a scrum
From the restart, Sale pick up on a loose ball after some kicking from both sides and Sale win the first scrum of the game.
Sale add the first points of the game through a Rob Du Preez penalty. 10 minutes gone and Sharks lead 0-3.
Sale win penalty
Tigers show good defence but the ref pulls them back for a no arms tackle. Sale point to the posts and Rob Du Preez steps up.
Back and forth
Tigers pick up on a loose Sale line out before the referee Simon Harding awards Sale a penalty for going over the ball. Sale line out on the Tigers 22.
Fight for territory
Tigers advance following a penalty kicked out by scrum-half Ben White. Tigers going through the phases and wing Olowofela makes a break before the balls picked up by Sharks and Tigers on the defence.
Tigers on the charge
Mike Williams wins the line out to form a maul as Tigers drive into the Sale half before Hardwick kicks the ball just past the try line where Sale tap it down for a 22 restart.
LINE OUT TIGERS
Tigers holds strong and windy conditions take the ball out into touch
It's Sale to get things underway as Tigers attack the Robin Hood Stand
Welford Road remembers
Welford Road falls silent as we remember those who gave their tomorrow for our today.
"We will remember them"
Tigers jog it in - Five to go!
Both teams have warmed up as the Tigers faithful cheer the lads in ahead of kick-off.
It's a first start of the season for Tigers tighthead Gaston Cortes and Lock Mike Fitzgerald returns to the Tigers 23 for the first time since Round 1 of the Gallagher Premiership.
15 MINS UNTIL KICK-OFF AT WELFORD ROAD
Catch all the action from tonight's Premiership Rugby Cup fixture between Tigers and Sale Sharks with Matchday Live.
Tigers commemorate Armistice Day
Tigers will be commemorating Armistice Day ahead of kick-off.
Click here for more details on what to expect.
Ant Allen chats pitchside to LTTV
The Premiership Rugby Cup is back!
We're live here at Welford Road for Tigers third Premiership Rugby Cup fixture of the season against Sale Sharks.
The rain is starting to come down as the teams warm up under the floodlights with half an hour until kick-off (7.45pm)