Tigers’ development squad took the honours over Sale Jets for the second time in three weeks with a 38-24 Premiership Rugby Shield victory on Monday night.
A frantic first 40 minutes at Loughborough University saw a penalty try for both teams and a total of three yellow cards, but Will Findlay’s brace put Tigers 21-17 up at the break.
The bonus point was sewn up within the first ten minutes of the second half, and scores for Kwaku Asiedu and Will Lane took Tigers’ tally to 38 points before a late consolation for the Jets.
Tommy Reffell made his first start in the Tigers back row since returning from an injury picked up on Wales U20s duty in February, and captained a young Development XV that featured seven guest players including former South Africa Sevens speedster Clayton Blommetjies at full-back.
Tigers started with real intensity in the first half, and were unlucky not to score in the opening two minutes after two strong lineout drives were both stopped short of the Sale line.
But Sale were first on the scoreboard with a strong push of their own on 12 minutes, which scrum-half Gus Warr duly converted to pin the score at 7-0.
Neither side’s backs were to see the ball for another 10 minutes or so, as the Leicester forwards smelled a pushover try of their own. Several lineouts and numerous scrums later – plus a yellow card for Sale’s Nick Ashcroft – a darting run from scrum-half Will Findlay eventually got the job done, and Tom Hardwick’s kick levelled the scores with just over a quarter of the game gone.
The visitors were having none of it, though, and were soon back into the Tigers half. Warr made the most of a scrum penalty with a three-pointer from the tee to edge the Jets ahead on the half-hour mark.
Tigers were soon back into their favourite corner, but referee Matt Turvey was less patient with the Sale team this time – sending No8 Sam Dugdale to the bin moments before awarding a penalty try to the home side that made it 14-10.
The yellow card was soon back out after the restart, this time penalising Campese Ma’afu at the breakdown. And Turvey was quickly back under the posts to award a penalty try, this time for the Jets after Leicester were adjudged to have brought down a scrum on their five-metre line.
Tigers opened play up with the next move, with a brilliant offload off the floor from Academy wing Luke Phoenix to Fred Tuilagi, who fed Findlay to score his second in the corner. Hardwick converted from the touchline, to make it 21-17 at the break.
Leicester came out the blocks quickest in the second half, with replacement hooker Will Holling peeling off the back of a powerful maul to score his side’s bonus-point try for 26-17.
And the fifth wasn’t far behind, with guest full-back Clayton Blommetjies bossing his backfield to great effect. Inside centre Tim Bitirim claimed a Sale high ball inside his own half and broke the defensive line beyond the visitors’ 22 before feeding Kwaku Asiedu to score in the right-hand corner. Hardwick made no mistake with his attempt at the sticks.
Tigers stepped up the pace of the game even further on the hour mark, with Bitirim, Blommetjies, and even replacement loosehead Owen Hills seemingly making metres at will, though Findlay was unlucky not to score his hat-trick try after accidental obstruction with one of his own men.
England Under-18 man Joe Browning would make amends, though, when Tigers turned over Sale ball inside their own 22. Browning made a sensational run through midfield, skipping through tackle after tackle before being brought down a couple of metres short of the line. Leicester recycled well, and Will Lane got over the whitewash for his side’s sixth try of the evening.
Leicester finished the game with 14 men after Fred Tuilagi was shown the fourth yellow card of the game for cynically slowing down the ball at a breakdown.
And Sale would have the final say, with a brilliant piece of skill from Tom Bullough to chip ahead down the left wing before feeding full-back Nathan Pope to score. Warr added the conversion with the final kick of the game to leave a final score of 38-24.