A young Leicester squad took two bonus points from defeat to Northampton Saints in their opening Pool B game at Edgeley Park, before losing to the more experienced Sale Sharks and London Welsh in their final two group fixtures.
Aviva Premiership Rugby newcomers Welsh enjoyed a 100 per cent record. The Exiles scored 19 tries and secured a win bonus point in each of their three games to finish top of the pool.
Welsh will be joined in the finals at Bath’s Recreation Ground by hosts Sale, who won two of their fixtures to secure second place in the group. Saracens and London Irish booked their place in the finals from last week’s first pool round with the final group round to come next Friday.
Tigers kicked off their evening against Northampton Saints, and it was the Franklin’s Gardens club who took an early lead when wing Anders Mogensen’s broke down the right touchline to score at the corner.
Joe Cain created Tigers’ first try of the night, his clever pass out of the back of the hand finding captain Matt Cornwell to score at the right corner. Moments later, Cornwell turned provider for Alex Lewington to go over at the same corner and give Tigers a 12-7 lead.
Two tries in quick succession – a second for the pacey Mogensen and an opportunist score for Tom Stephenson – gave Northampton a 19-12 lead at the break.
Tigers hit back with two tries early in the second period through Tom Bellak and a well-worked score for Tom Hudson to lead 24-19. Hudson’s score secured a try bonus point.
However, with the clock ticking down, Northampton centre Jack Allcock finished off a length of the field counterattack and then converted his own try to give Saints a 26-24 win. Tigers claimed a losing bonus point from the game to go with their try bonus.
Tigers faced Sale Sharks in their second game. Sale, who were playing their last ever rugby at Edgeley Park before their move to Salford City Stadium, had lost 31-19 to Aviva Premiership newcomers London Welsh in their opening game.
Sale centre Mark Jennings dived between the posts to give Sale an early lead before Johnny Leota forced his way over to give the hosts a 14-0 lead. Tom Brady then showed good pace to score under the posts before Charlie Amesbury dived over at the left corner for a fourth Sale try.
Academy lock Harry Wells grabbed a try for Tigers just before half-time, pouncing on loose ball to leave Sale 26-5 ahead at the break.
They extended the lead through Will Addison’s try right at the start of the second period before Amesbury followed up Leota’s break down the middle to score his second of the game. James Doyle grabbed another for Sale before Tom Cruse added a try on the final whistle to set the seal on a 50-5 win for the hosts.
Tigers faced Welsh in their final game, the Exiles having beaten Sale 31-19 and Northampton 34-7 in their first two games.
Welsh, who included a number of sevens specialists in their squad, showed neat hands to set Ed Tellwright away for the first try. Tellwright collected Aaron Myers pass for a second try at the left corner.
Tigers hit back with a well constructed try, Wells making ground up the right before Bellak picked a line from halfway and over on the left.
Myers then created a hat-trick for Tellwright as Welsh ended the first-half 19-5 ahead.
Tellwright crossed for his and Welsh’s fourth of the game shortly after the restart. British Army’s Gerhard Wessells then collected Peceli Nacamavuto pass to score under the posts before Ben Seru and Rhodri McAtee added two further tries. Seru’s second try of the game completed the scoring and gave Welsh a 52-5 victory and with it top spot in Pool B.
The final game of the evening, and the last ever fixture at Edgeley Park, saw Sale secure second place with a 36-14 win over Northampton Saints.