Leicester step closer to the title
April 22, 2000
Leicester's championship drive hit top speed at Heywood Road this afternoon as they left sorry Sale spluttering on the hard shoulder.
The Tigers outclassed the home side scoring 41 points in the opening period to maintain top spot and on this evidence, a successful defence of their Premiership title is a formality.
Much has been made of the exciting rugby being produced by their main rivals Northampton and Bath.
But Leicester have a vast array of attacking options at their disposal too and they used them to devastating effect here.
There was a time when the downpour which lasted for the first half hour would have seen them trundle a merry path through the middle.
On this occasion however, they spurned safety first, spun the ball out to the flanks and the Sale defence melted.
If the home side were going to have any chance of causing a shock, they needed a good start.
Consequently, Geordan Murphy's opening try for the Tigers after 52 seconds once Neil Back had spirited the ball across the field from the kick-off was not quite what they were looking for.
Though Sale battled hard, with full back Jim Mallinder looking dangerous on the break, they were drilled into submission by a relentless Leicester attack.
Murphy's wing partner Dave Lougheed cruised in twice, before Austin Healey, Leon Lloyd and Tim Stimpson took advantage of Rob Appleyard's sin binning six minutes before the interval to bring the Tigers' try total to the half dozen.
Sale's only first-half riposte was a Niki Little penalty and the loss ofcentre Barrie Jon Mather with a recurrence of an ankle injury further weakened morale.
Such was Leicester's dominance that coach Dean Richards brought on four replacements at the break, including an entire front-row.
With Northampton looming in the league next week, his decision was understandable but it was hardly the biggest compliment Sale have ever been paid.
Spurred on by the indignity, they enjoyed their most sustained attacking spell of the match.
England winger Steve Hanley powered through a weak Stimpson tackle before touching down and Little almost set the Cumbrian away again after splitting the Tigers defence.
It seemed as though Leicester could be bothered raising the effort to reply, so Sale set up camp in the visitors half for almost a quarter of the game without managing to score a single point.
Deciding that their lethargy had lasted long enough, Leicester ambled to the other end of the pitch and grabbed try number seven.
Replacement scrum-half James Grindal threw a long pass after the Sale pack were sucked in defending a line-out, Healey moved it on and Greenwood took the final pass five yards from the line with no defender in sight.
The finish was as easy as the match had been for Leicester and Steve Davidson's last-minute try for Sale was no consolation.