Aviva Premiership: Leicester Tigers cement play-off with 42-22 win at Sale Sharks
Last Updated: 03/05/14 6:33pm
Leicester Tigers secured an Aviva Premiership play-off berth with a 42-22 bonus-point victory that ended Sale Sharks' hopes of making the knockout stages.
Toby Flood scored twice while Vereniki Goneva, Niall Morris and David Mele all touched down as the defending champions clinched a top-four finish with a match to spare.
Fly-half Owen Williams converted a penalty try on the hour to take the game away from the Sharks, who produced a spirited comeback in the closing stages.
Three tries in 11 minutes from Michael Paterson, Henry Thomas and Johnny Leota were mere consolation for Sale, who were already guaranteed a place in next season's European Champions Cup.
A maximum points win sees Richard Cockerill's side cement a semi-final place for the 10th successive season after Bath played out a 19-19 stalemate with Northampton Saints at the Recreation Ground on Friday night.
Sale started brightly but they failed to make that early pressure count, and the Tigers quickly started to become the more dominant outfit.
A powerful drive from Logovi'i Mulipoli laid the platform for Williams to chip over the top and into the in-goal area.
England centre Manu Tuilagi looked favourite to score, but Goneva eventually pounced onto the ball just before it rolled into touch.
The home side hit-back immediately after Danny Cipriani slotted over a penalty from range. Williams quickly had the chance to restore the Tigers seven point advantage, but failed to convert his own effort for three points.
The Tigers thought they had crossed again when Anthony Allen touched down following Morris' grubber, but the video referee chalked the score off for an earlier forward pass.
Two minutes before the break, Ben Youngs and Jordan Crane created an overlap out wide for Flood to score in the corner. Williams converted from the touchline to give the visitors a 14-3 lead at half time.
There was no sign of Leicester easing off after the interval, with Morris going over for their third score after being fed in by Williams' offload, with the fly-half then converting to make it 21-3.
Flood then got his second after being set up by Youngs, with Williams converting.
The England international could have even had a hat-trick, but was held up over the line. That did not deter the Tigers attack, though, they went over for a penalty try shortly after, with Williams converting.
The Sharks then staged a fight back, with three tries on the bounce. The first came from Paterson in the left corner after a looping pass from Sam Tuitupou, with Joe Ford adding the extras.
Henry Thomas then crossed on the back of a lineout, before Leota touched down a breakaway score shorty after. Ford added the extras for the latter.
The Tigers ensured they had the last laugh though, taking advantage of Sale being down to 14-men after Tom Arscott was sin-binned, by scoring a try from David Mele in the final play of the game, which Williams converted.
Aviva Premiership 2013/14 Round 21
Mike Tindall is poised to announce his retirement from rugby union after tweeting following Gloucester's win.
Leicester boss Richard Cockerill paid tribute to outgoing Toby Flood after they secured a Premiership play-off place.
Bath head coach Mike Ford believes his side made a statement in the 19-19 draw against Northampton on Friday night.