Leicester made it 6 wins in a row against a stuttering Sale side that has only picked up a solitary point this season.
The night started well for Sale as they were the beneficiaries of the referees lack of whistle. Rob Miller skirted down the wing for the night's opening try after referee Wayne Barnes controversially called advantage over after a poor and heavily pressured clearing kick. I'd love to hear Barnes explain how having your 8 pass to the 10 with
his heals on the dead ball line is any form of advantage. Miller took the quick throw in and after one phase was put haring down the touchline by Macleod, evading both Jordan Crane and Verekini Goneva. The finish was top quality, but should never have been allowed to occur. Wayne Barnes is meant to be an international referee, I weep for the world if he is the best we have.
Tigers first points came from George Ford penalty after a strong burst from Graham Kitchener, as Mark Cueto failed to roll away. Wayne Barnes then arrogantly dismissed Cueto's legitimate query, that is no way to talk to a man of Cueto's standing in the game.
Sale's last points of the day were score on 15 minutes. Macleod converting a penalty after a lineout offence from Ed Slater.
Ford's next penalty was a result of the new laws this season. Cillian Willis dithered at the base of the ruck and the refereed applied the new "use it or lose it" rules to give Leicester a scrum. The Sale pack disintegrated as Tigers gave them the Horse, leaving Ford to pop over the penalty.
With ten minutes remaining Wayne Barnes decided trying to score a try is now a yellow card. Goneva was clear through to the line but knocked on. Because it was an opposition player passing ball it was a penalty and a yellow card. Wayne Barnes must watch a lot of rugby, players catch the ball one handed or on the juggle all the time.
In the end it didn't matter, Sale attacked well and camped on the Tigers line but Dave Seymour knock on and the chance was lost.
Tigers started the second half with real authority. George Ford probed a hole in Sale's defence straight from the kick off, Will Addison tried a crazy chip from his own 5 meter line which Tigers recovered. Some bright play almost put Goneva through only for him to spill the ball. Luckily Barnes decided this one wasn't a yellow card. More duff work in their own half gave Tigers another penalty with Ford converting to put Tigers into the lead for the first time.
The lead was never lost and Tigers started pull inexorably away. The night's second try was from injury returnee Ben Youngs. The Tigers pack marched the Sale 8 backwards from a line out, once the fringe defence was committed to the maul Youngs called for the run from debutant Richard Thorpe. Thorpe could have gone himself but released Youngs on the outside to make certain the score. Youngs punched the air with delight at the decisive score.
6 minutes later Tigers decisive 10 minute power play was over as Ford knocked over another long range scrum penalty.
The match was never in danger of going out with a whimper, and Sale hooker Joe Ward made sure by starting a mass brawl with 8 minutes to go. After another humping on the scrum Ward had had enough, as the scrum collapsed he pinned opposite number Tom Youngs down on the ground and punched him three times, twice connecting with the head. Rather worryingly the TMO only thought this a yellow card, what do you have to do to get a red card these days? It also recalled the match at Welford Road a few years ago when Julian White landed a solitary punch on Andrew Sheridan. The referee that day? Wayne Barnes. The colour of card? Red. Consistency has never been a strong point in rugby.
That wasn't the worst part however as a Sale physio entered into a fracas and tackled George Ford. Sale have form in this area with a water carrier once taking Austin Healey out when he wanted to take a quick throw in. Is this evidence of a culture of thuggery in Sale rugby? Probably this was the club that spawned Chris Jones after all.
Ford made it 20-8 with the final score of the match.
Over all this was a poor match which was spoiled by perhaps the worst refereeing performance the Premiership will see. An attempted interception getting the same treatment as three punches to a man pinned to the floor is the most obvious and disgusting example of refereeing incompetence.
Though that shouldn't be used to gloss over another poor attacking performance from the Tigers, 4 tries in 4 games is poor form to take into Toulouse and the Heineken Cup. What is the problem? I don;t know, if I did I'd be coaching the Tigers not writing about them.