Sharks edge past Tigers
PREMIERSHIP SATURDAY WRAP: Sale Sharks held on in a thriller to record a third successive victory against Leicester Tigers for the first time in 40 years.
Replacement prop Halani Aulika had a mixed bag of a game, but he scored what was to be the winning try before being yellow carded late in the second half to ensure nerves were shredded at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Peter Betham scored a try-double for Tigers before the break but Mike Phillips, Johnny Leota and Paolo Odogwu – allied to the cool kicking of Will Addison – saw Sale take a lead into the break.
And despite Adam Thompstone's brilliant solo finish, Sharks had enough left in the tank at the end to get home.
In Saturday's other game, Anthony Watson and Matt Banahan scored second-half tries as Bath battled to a fourth win of the season away at Gloucester in the West Country derby.
Sale Sharks 34-30 Leicester Tigers
Sale, usually such a dominant force at home, were looking to rekindle their form at the AJ Bell having lost three of their last five matches in front of their own fans.
And it all went to plan from the start as Sale capitalised from a miscued clearance kick by Telusa Veainu.
From the line-out deep in Tigers territory, Wales scrumhalf Mike Phillips eventually sniped his way over the tryline after a neat step and Will Addison added the extras.
Phillips followed that up by surging down the left before being brought to a stop though the Sale momentum was brought to a half in the tenth minute.
Adam Thompstone, Brendon O'Connor and Peter Betham combined wonderfully before the latter touched down in the right-hand corner. Owen Williams' extra two brought parity.
But Betham was not done there by a long shot as, after taking on inside ball from O’'onnor, he smashed through Sale and across the tryline three minutes after his first effort.
Williams was on target with the conversion again and his penalty soon opened up a ten-point gap for Leicester after the hosts were pinged for offside.
Addison responded with a three-pointer of his own before a superb line-out move saw Beaumont offload to the speedy Paolo Odogwu, who couldn't be caught before he reached the whitewash.
On the half-hour Sale seized the lead back as Johnny Leota used all his bulk to smash through following a close-quarters ruck, with Addison nailing his third conversion from three.
Williams cut the deficit down to four points with another penalty, but Sale finished the half on the ascendancy and 24-20 to the good.
After some crunching forward carries opened the second half, Sharks replacement prop Halani Aulika gave away a cheap penalty and Williams promptly cut the deficit down to one point.
However, after a huge amount of pressure while camped on the Leicester line, Aulika made amends and then some for that error as his pick-and-go finally breached the visitors.
Addison added the two and Leicester remained out of a converted try's reach after a Williams penalty drifted ever so slightly wide.
A Williams grubber then put Sharks on the backfoot as they were forced to concede a five-metre line-out, and a big rolling maul went to the TMO for the try decision.
Tom Youngs was adjudged to have been held up, but Aulika was shown a yellow for going in at the side.
Then came Thompstone's try and against 14 men or not it was a superb finish – the wing got the faintest of touches down on the right-hand corner while two bodies were draped on him. Williams then nailed a tricky conversion to make it a one-point game.
However, Leicester infringed at the ruck with five minutes to go and Addison's penalty gave Sharks enough breathing space to edge a dramatic game.
For Sale Sharks:
Tries: Phillips, Odogwu, Leota, Aulika
Cons: Addison 4
Pens: Addison 2
Tries: Betham 2, Thompstone
Cons: Williams 3
Pens: Williams 3
Sale Sharks: 15 Byron McGuigan, 14 Nev Edwards, 13 Will Addison, 12 Johnny Leota, 11 Paolo Odogwu, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Josh Beaumont (captain), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Eifion Lewis-Roberts, 17 Halani Aulika, 18 Andrei Ostrikov, 19 Laurence Pearce, 20 Magnus Lund, 21 James Mitchell, 22 Dan Mugford, 23 Sam Bedlow.
Leicester Tigers: 15 Telusa Veauinu, 14 Adam Thompstone, 13 Peter Betham, 12 Mathew Tait, 11 Tom Brady, 10 Owen Williams 9 Ben Youngs,8 Lachlan McCaffrey, 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Mike Williams, 5 Mike Fitzgerald, 4 Ed Slater (captain), 3 Dan Cole, 2 George McGuigan, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Logovi'i Mulipola, 18 Greg Bateman, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Graham Kitchener, 21 Jono Kitto, 22 George Worth, 23 Matt Smith.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Wayne Falla, Peter Allan
TMO: Geoff Warren
Gloucester 6-15 Bath
Both sides struggled in the first half and it remained scoreless until James Hook's penalty just after the half-hour mark gave Gloucester the lead as defences dominated.
Greig Laidlaw struggled off the tee as he missed three of four penalties, which allowed Bath to stay close to the hosts and make them pay.
Anthony Watson's neat finish gave them the lead for the first time, while Matt Banahan's effort less than ten minutes from time confirmed victory.
The game started at a frantic pace with Gloucester moving the ball through the hands quickly, making Bath’s defence scramble in both directions.
But reliable kicker Laidlaw missed a simple chance to put the hosts ahead as he pulled a penalty wide from in front of the posts.
Both sides started to struggle in attack as they failed to move the ball quickly enough and it became a kicking contest as both searched for territory.
Bath struggled to get into Gloucester's 22 and so flyhalf George Ford was forced to try a drop goal attempt which rattled the posts.
Gloucester finally broke the deadlock just after the half-hour mark as Hook, starting his first game of the season, successfully landed a penalty from half way.
The former Wales international had another chance from even longer a few minutes later but could not quite make the distance, leaving his penalty as the only score of the half.
The sloppy play on show did not ease up after the break as Semesa Rokoduguni spilled a mandatory high ball a couple of minutes in.
But Bath got their first points minutes later as Ford found his range with a drop goal, landing his fourth of the season, although Rokoduguni was in space on the far side.
Laidlaw also found his kicking boots as he gave Gloucester the lead again with a penalty from a difficult angle on the right, before Ford narrowly missed from long range.
The visitors continued to pile on the pressure as they hammered away at Gloucester's defence ten metres out as Rokoduguni charged down the right, but the home side remained strong, forced a Bath error and cleared their lines.
But Gloucester could not hold out much longer as Watson powered over on the left wing after Bath finally moved the ball quickly enough to move Gloucester's defence out of position.
Ford missed the conversion from wide on the left, leaving the away side with just a two-point lead going into the final quarter.
Laidlaw missed two great chances to give Gloucester the lead with two separate penalties from over 40 metres with both falling short, before some great Bath defending saw them turn the ball over with Gloucester just ten metres out.
And they took their momentum up the other end, as a move down the blindside following a scrum saw an unmarked Banahan slip in to kill the game.
Pens: Hook, Laidlaw
Tries: Watson, Banahan
Gloucester: 15 James Hook, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Henry Purdy, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Mariano Galarza, 4 Tom Savage, 3 John Afoa, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Paul Doran-Jones, 19 Joe Latta, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Willi Heinz, 22 Matt Scott, 23 David Halaifonua.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Aled Brew, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Anthony Watson, 10 George Ford (co-captain), 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Leroy Houston, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Matt Garvey (co-captain), 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Tom Dunn, 1 Nathan Catt.
Replacements: 16 Ross Batty, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Kane Palma-Newport, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Zach Mercer, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Rory Jennings, 23 Jeff Williams.
Referee: JP Doyle
Assistant Referees: Ross Campbell, Roy Maybank
TMO: David Grashoff