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Tigers secure tenth successive semi-final spot

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Leicester Tigers secured their place in a tenth successive Aviva Premiership semi-final with a 42-22 victory over Sale Sharks on Saturday.

Tigers scored six tries to secure the bonus-point win they needed to guarantee a top-four finish in front of 10,092 spectators, a record attendance at the AJ Bell Stadium for a Sale match.
Vereniki Goneva, the leading scorer in the Aviva Premiership this season, grabbed his 12th league try of the campaign before Toby Flood, on as a first-half replacement scored his first.
Tigers turned the screw with three tries early in the second halg. Niall Morris crossed for the third on his 50th start in Tigers colours, Flood doubled his tally for the season before a dominant scrum was rewarded with a penalty try.
At that stage Tigers lead 35-3, but Sale rallied with three tries of their own through Michael Paterson, Henry Thomas and Johnny Leota before David Mele set the seal on the victory with the final try on full-time.
British Lions Geoff Parling and Tom Youngs returned to the forward pack. Parling made his first since his recovery from long-term injury, while Youngs regained his place in the front row after sitting out the match against Harlequins in the last round.

Morris returned to the side for his 50th start in Tigers colours.
Sale fly-half Danny Cipriani turned down his first kick at goal to give Sale a good lineout position at the left corner. It signalled an early period of pressure on the Leicester line but solid defence from Owen Williams, Anthony Allen and finally Julian Salvi forced the knock-on and Ben Youngs cleared long.
Williams, however, took on his first long-range penalty attempt after Andrei Ostrikov was pinged for failing to roll. His kick had the distance but it drifted wide of the right-hand post.
The home fans thought they had a try to cheer when wing Charlie Ingall swooped on a loose ball and broke away down the left flank but play was pulled back for a knock-on by Viliami Fihaki moments earlier.
Tigers secured good possession at the scrum for Mat Tait to set up the field position on the left. Tigers made further ground through Marcos Ayerza and Logovi’i Mulipola before Williams’ chip behind the defence was pounced on by Goneva for his 14th try of the season and his 12th in the Aviva Premiership. Williams landed the conversion for a 7-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Sale were given the chance to make a quick reply when Gibson was whistled at a ruck in midfield and Cipriani landed the penalty for the hosts’ first points.
Ben Youngs’s quick penalty had Tigers on the attack again and they were awarded a penalty for a high tackle on Allen. However, Williams was wide with his kick as Tigers remained 7-3 ahead after 21 minutes.
Tigers were enjoying much of the possession and territory with Jordan Crane’s back-of-the-hand pass putting Tom Youngs through a gap on halfway. Williams then put Slater through another gap on the Sale 22 before Morris slid a grubber to the left corner where Allen dotted down. However, the score was ruled out by referee JP Doyle, with the help of television match official Trevor Fisher, for a forward pass by Williams.
The Tigers pack won a penalty at the resulting scrum but Williams was wide with his kick.
Tigers continued to press with Crane’s neat handling creating another opening. Tigers had the hint of an overlap on the right but Morris was closed out before his inside pass was knocked-on by Goneva.
Cipriani played the advantgae and No8 Fihaki led the counterattack from his own 22, evading Slater’s tackle before finding Tom Brady on the right. Brady looked set to score but he was expertly tackled by last-man Allen and knocked-on under the weight of the hit. Allen was hurt in the tackle and was replaced by Toby Flood.
And Flood made an impact with his first try of the season just before the break. Williams broke a tackle midway in the Sale half and made 20m before Ben Youngs found Flood on an angled run down the short side to score at the right-hand corner. Williams’s conversion send Tigers in at the break 14-3 ahead.
Tigers began the second half brightly. Williams made a half break in midfield but knocked-on as he tried to offload before Tait combined with Morris for a 60m break down the right.
And the good work was rewarded with a try four minutes after the restart. Williams broke past Marc Jones and offloaded out of Ostrikov’s tackle for Morris to score next to the posts. Williams landed the conversion to put Tigers 21-3 ahead.
Patient work by the Tigers paved the way for the fourth and bonus-point try soon after. Neil Briggs, on for Tom Youngs, made a strong carry, Crane kept the position alive with another back-of-the-hand pass and Flood collected Ben Youngs’s pass to score under the posts. Williams’s extras gave Tigers a 28-3 lead.
Flood almost grabbed his hat-trick try moments later. A lineout drive set up the position close to the Sale line, Morris went on his own and offloaded to Flood who was held up over the line.
However, Tigers were in control at the scrum and, with the Sale set-piece splintering, referee Doyle awarded the penalty try. Williams converted to move Tigers 35-3 ahead.
Sale put together their first period of pressure of the second half and came away with their first try. Joe Ford spotted Michael Paterson in space on the left and the Sale lock had the legs to run in at the corner from 20m out. Ford’s conversion cut Leicester’s lead to 35-10.
The hosts grabbed a second try with eight minutes to go. Replacement prop Henry Thomas broke round the back of a close-range lineout onto David Seymour’s pass and over at the corner.
And a sweeping move brought Sale their third try of the afternoon three minutes later. Sam Tuitupou offloaded to Johnny Leota who stepped past last-man Morris and under the posts for the try. Ford landed the conversion to leave Tigers 35-22 ahead with five minutes left.

Sale ended the game with 14 men after Tom Arscott was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on David Mele.
Tigers took immediate advantage, Tuilagi stretching Sale on the right where he had Morris in support. Morris rode Leota’s tackle but made two movements as he tried to touch down.
Tigers did have their try right on full-time. A close-range scrum provided the platform and Thomas Waldrom linked with Mele off the back for the French scrum-half to dive over for the sixth try. Williams converted with the final kick to set the seal on Tigers’ 42-22 victory which moved Tigers third in the table.