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No stopping leaders Leicester with George Ford again the star

By PA

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Leaders Leicester recorded a sixth successive Gallagher Premiership victory of the season after beating Sale Sharks 19-11 at Mattioli Woods Welford Road. Tigers fly-half George Ford, overlooked by England boss Eddie Jones for the Autumn Nations Series next month, was Leicester’s match-winner. The 77 times-capped international kicked four penalties and converted Hanro Liebenberg’s 50th-minute try as Leicester preserved a comfortable advantage at the Premiership summit.

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Kieran Wilkinson kicked two penalties for Sale and hooker Curtis Langdon scored a late try, but it was another outstanding Tigers victory as they continued an impressive resurgence under head coach Steve Borthwick.

The win tees them up nicely for next Saturday’s eagerly awaited east midlands derby against Northampton, yet Sale could only reflect on key moments in the contest when their discipline waned and Ford punished them.

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Ex-England skipper Chris Robshaw guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload
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Ex-England skipper Chris Robshaw guests on the latest RugbyPass Offload

Borthwick made three changes to the side that crushed Worcester last weekend, with lock Calum Green, scrum-half Ben Youngs and centre Dan Kelly all handed starts. Sale, meanwhile, welcomed back lock Lood de Jager for his first Sharks appearance since March, with scrum-half Gus Warr also featuring and wing Marland Yarde taking over from Denny Solomona.

The Sharks made a promising start, shading early territory, although Wilkinson missed an early penalty. And the game’s intensity was underlined through a flare-up around the dead-ball line that involved England colleagues Ellis Genge and Tom Curry, before referee Karl Dickson quickly restored order.

 

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Sale looked to get their former Leicester star Manu Tuilagi into the action, but he spilt possession after being worked into space just inside Sharks’ 22. And that summed up an opening quarter high on endeavour, yet one that lacked a composed finishing touch as the teams continued slugging it out. It took 31 minutes for the opening points to arrive and they came via the ever-reliable Ford, whose 40-metre penalty edged Leicester ahead.

Wilkinson put Sale level three minutes before the break when he kicked a penalty from in front of Leicester’s posts, yet Ford ensured that Tigers shaded a tense opening half by booting another long-range penalty that made it 6-3 at the interval. With defences dominating, attacking opportunities were at a premium until the game burst into life 10 minutes after the break.

And it was England scrum-half Youngs who proved the catalyst, attacking space brilliantly and drawing in Sale defenders before delivering a scoring pass to Liebenberg. The South African still had a lot to do, yet he displayed superb pace and power before touching down out wide, and Ford converted for a ten-point advantage. Wilkinson and Ford then exchanged penalties in quick succession, with Leicester taking a healthy lead into the final quarter.

The Tigers had an upper hand on the back of Ford’s pinpoint kicking, and Sale could not establish anywhere near a sufficient attacking foothold to threaten their opponents. It was an impressive illustration of how to close out a game, and Sale could have few complaints after becoming Tigers’ latest victims during a season that is already showing strong signs of Leicester being a major force this term. And the afternoon’s work was inevitably completed by an unflappable Ford, who finished with 14 points from a fourth successful penalty that left Sale to head for home without even a losing bonus point.

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No stopping leaders Leicester with George Ford again the star

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