Three second-half tries got Leicester Tigers back into the contest against Sale Sharks on Saturday, but did not bring the reward of match points after “leaving too much to do” with their first-half deficit.
Tigers trailed 27-9 early in the second half and then 37-19 after Sale’s bonus-point score around the hour, but staged a dramatic fightback to cut the deficit to just six points.
With the possibility of creating one last chance, though, it was Sharks who claimed the final points, kicking a last-gasp penalty to deny Tigers even a losing bonus point at Welford Road in Round 18 of the league season.
Tigers director of rugby Geordan Murphy said: “We probably gave ourselves too much to do in the first half. We gave away 11 penalties, we hurt ourselves there.
“But from there, we showed some real good fight and did some good things in the second half. We scored some good tries and had Sale under some pressure.”
After a try from Jake Kerr entering the final 10 minutes, Tigers quickly returned to Sharks territory and dominated possession in the final stages, keeping play close to the visitors’ tryline.
But another score did not come until the 78th minute when Freddie Steward grabbed his first Gallagher Premiership try, as the clock ticked down ominously.
“I was confident if we had got over the line with seven minutes to go, there was enough time to give ourselves another chance,” added Murphy.
“But we just couldn’t get over. Sale were smart there and slowed ball down.
“We were battering at their tryline and, if we'd got over a little earlier, it would’ve been very interesting, setting up a grandstand finish.
“We’re disappointed. Sale are a quality side but we feel we had some more rugby in us.”
Tigers are back in action on Wednesday with the short trip to Wasps (5.30pm kick-off) and have another derby date on Sunday when Northampton Saints arrive at Welford Road (2.00pm).