Manu Tuilagi reflected on “a different feeling” of not playing for Leicester at Welford Road after he helped Sale Sharks beat his former club 40-31. The England centre, who left Leicester in July after rejecting a 25 per cent pay cut, made a try-scoring return as Sale regained second place in the Gallagher Premiership.
“I loved it,” Tuilagi told BT Sport.
“It has been my home for so many years, so I was excited to come back. I’ve still got the Leicester accent, and I don’t think that will ever change.
“I was playing against good mates of mine, and it was a different feeling not playing for Tigers, but it was just nice to get the win.”
Asked for his take on Tuilagi’s display, Sale boss Steve Diamond said: “I was really pleased.
“He wanted to play to exorcise a demon, and I think he did that by scoring a try.”
It was a trademark Tuilagi score, illustrating enviable power and strength as Leicester defenders were left scattered.
The Tuilagi try highlighted a dominant first 50 minutes by Sale, with fly-half AJ MacGinty and captain Jono Ross also claiming touchdowns, while MacGinty kicked three conversions and a penalty and Faf De Klerk dropped a goal.
Tuilagi was replaced midway through the second period just after a De Klerk penalty, and despite Leicester having their moments – Hanro Liebenberg, Jake Kerr and Freddie Steward scored tries and George Ford kicked 16 points – they were ultimately eclipsed.
Sale wing Denny Solomona claimed a bonus-point try 17 minutes from time, with MacGinty’s conversion giving him a 19-point haul.
Diamond added: “We wanted a win and we got a win.
“Overall, I am happy. We got five points, and I have never got that here before, so it’s a good win for us.
“They are a different team now that Steve (Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick) has got hold of them. They fight for everything. It’s the hardest game we’ve had this season.
“It was a very physical encounter. There are a few broken bodies in there (changing room).”
Reflecting on the play-off race, Diamond added: “Exeter are a step above everybody, and they have proven that. Bristol got a bonus point last night, Bath did today, and we’ve got to match them.
“If we slip up now, it is down to us, nobody else. It is a five-horse race, still.
“I see it going down to the wire. I think those who manage their squad best over the next week or so will get the ascendancy.”
The only downbeat note on a dominant afternoon for Sale was their England flanker Tom Curry going off on the stroke of half-time and not returning after failing a head injury assessment.
Leicester rugby director Geordan Murphy said: “We gave ourselves too much to do in the first half, and we were chasing it from there.
“We scored some good tries in the second half and we put Sale under some pressure, but it was disappointing to come away with nothing in terms of points.
“There are positives we can take out of it. This team will get stronger.”
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