Leicester Tigers Under-18s put in an impressive second-half defensive display to see off Sale Sharks 27-24 in Round 4 of the Premiership Rugby U18 Academy League Northern Conference.
First-half tries from wings Joe Browning and Leo Gilliland, followed by a touchdown from a driving maul by hooker Shaun Allsopp gave Tigers the advantage at the break, and a Harry Glynn second-half interception sealed the points for the Tigers cubs.
The home fixture at Oval Park was a cold and gloomy affair, but Tigers defence held strong in the second half to ensure the club remains unbeaten this season and top of the table.
Tigers were the brighter of the sides from the kick-off and took just five minutes to get the game’s first score, as scrum-half Jonny Law picked up ball from the back of the scrum and played in Browning who turned on the gas to sprint over the line.
Sale came back at Tigers and broke the line on a few occasions but some big shots from the home forwards kept them at bay.
Quick hands from the Tigers midfield after some strong running from flanker Emeka Ilione and prop James Whitcombe released wing Leo Gilliland who ran in to extend Tigers' lead on ten minutes to 10 points.
Sale flanker John Bailey stretched the Tigers line with some hard running in the centre of the field following a series of penalties. The move opened up Tigers as Sale were able to capitalise in the next phases as centre Dan King found space out wide to get his team off the mark. Fly-half Tom Curtis kicked his points to make the scores 10-7 after 20 minutes and very nearly levelled the scores with a penalty kick from the halfway line which just fell short.
It was a typical Tigers driving maul score from the lineout which saw the cubs take back control in the 29th minute as hooker Allsopp touched down and fly-half Costelow kicked his first points of the game to extend the lead to 10 again.
Inside centre Ben Dickinson was forced off with an injury and replaced by Harry Glynn, who kicked the final points of the half on the whistle following a penalty for a Sale offside, with Tigers leading 20-7 at the break.
The second half took a different direction as Sale threw everything at Leicester. The home team gave away a series of penalties and found themselves on the back foot from the off, defending their five-metre line for most of the opening action.
The tryline was finally breached by Sale wing Tom Roebuck who went over in the right corner as Tigers were outnumbered. Tom Curtis added the two points with 43 minutes played with the score now 20-17.
A slice of luck saw Tigers hit back immediately thanks to an interception from Glynn in the Sharks half and he ran under the posts with the lead agasin in double figures at 27-17.
The visitors thought they had scored in the 47th minute, but the referee deemed that the ball hadn’t been grounded, and Tigers were soon down to 14 men when centre Ronnie Du Randt was shown a yellow card for multiple offences.
Just as Du Randt returned to the field, Tigers No.8 Ollie Ashworth was shown yellow as Tigers defended deep inside their own half. The second rows led the defensive charge with some huge hits from George Martin, Tom Manz and replacement Lynx Noumey.
Tigers finally succumbed to the Sharks pressure in the 67th minute as full-back Cal Grieve found space out wide. Curtis added the conversion but it wasn’t enough as Tigers held on to record a three-point victory and make it four wins from four in the defence of their league title.