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Page last updated at 20:41 GMT, Friday, 4 September 2009 21:41 UK

Sale 15-12 Leicester

Sale (9) 15
Pens: Thomas 5

Leicester (6) 12
Pens: Staunton 4

Lee Thomas
Thomas kicked Sale to victory with five penalties on Friday

Defending champions Leicester suffered a shock defeat on the opening game of the Guinness Premiership season after Lee Thomas kicked Sale to victory.

Leicester took an early lead through the boot of debutant Jeremy Staunton but struggled in poor conditions.

Thomas put Sale 9-6 ahead at half-time with three straight penalties, while Staunton added his second of the game.

But despite the Tigers drawing level just after the break through Staunton, two further Thomas penalties won it.

Staunton had reduced the deficit to just three points and with two minutes remaining had a chance to level the scores.

But he pushed his penalty wide of the post as Sale held on for an opening day victory against the champions.

Leicester struggled to hit the heights of last season with Sale dominating the scrum and coping better with the driving rain.


Back-row forward Luke Abrahams almost made Leicester's night worse in the dying minutes but knocked on with the line at his mercy as the Tigers at least took away a losing bonus point from Edgeley Park.

Staunton impressed on his Tigers debut while fellow debutant Anthony Allen struggled to assert himself on the game in the difficult conditions.

Despite the match being won through the boot of Thomas, Sale won this game up front with Leicester's forwards constantly penalised after coming under pressure from the home pack.

Debutants Sisa Koyamaibole and Jack Forster were dominant in the scrum for Sale and 19-year-old flanker James Gaskell more than held his own up front.

Sale's Charlie Hodgson helped control things at fly-half, forming an effective half-back partnership with Richard Wigglesworth, while Ben Cohen and Mark Cueto on either wing provided enough penetration to suggest the Sharks will be stiff opposition this season.

Not even the introduction of World Cup-winning duo Lewis Moody and Ben Kay midway through the second half could help inspire Leicester, who at times looked like they lacked the leadership of former captain Martin Corry.

The Tigers will soon welcome back British and Irish Lions duo Tom Croft and Harry Ellis and on the evidence of Friday their return will be warmly received.

Sale director of rugby Kingsley Jones:

"With a minute to go, I was wondering why I do this job - and then a minute later I knew why I do this job.

"The feeling of getting the win, and the effort the players put in, was something I was really proud of.

"We've been underdogs but we showed that we can play as a team.

"The line-out struggled, but the attitude and the commitment more than made up for it.

"It's an insult to those guys, when you look at the quality in the room, and suggest we are going to be also-rans because a few guys have left."

Leicester boss Richard Cockerill:
"I'm disappointed, we are a better team then how we played tonight.

"We didn't play the conditions well. I'm also disappointed we didn't control the game and weren't more direct.

"We did some good things but it's hard to play in these conditions so we'll take the bonus point and move on.

"We were in with a shout, and it's credit to the players that they played right to the death.

"If we had won it tonight, I'd have been delighted - but did we really deserve it?"

Sale: Macleod; Cueto, Bell, Thomas, Cohen; Hodgson, Wigglesworth; Roberts, M Jones, Forster, C Jones, Schofield, Gaskell, Briggs, Koyamailbole.
Replacements: M Tait for Bell (53), Tuilagi for Thomas (75), Kerr for Roberts (68), Abraham for M. Jones (58), Halsall for Forster (62), Schwalger for Briggs (63), D Tait for Koyamailbole (72).
Not Used: Cliff.

Leicester: G Murphy; Smith, Hipkiss, Allen, Hamilton; Staunton, Youngs; Ayerza, Chuter, Castrogiovanni, Blaze, L Deacon, Newby, Woods, Crane.
Replacements: Davies for Chuter (58), White for Castrogiovanni (60), Kay for L Deacon (58), Moody for Woods (55).
Not Used: Parr, Grindal, Twelvetrees, J Murphy.

Sin Bin: L. Deacon (28).

Att: 8,751

Ref: David Rose (RFU).

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see also
Premiership photos
06 Sep 09 |  English
Jones looks to new era with Sale
27 Aug 09 |  Sale
Leicester land fly-half Staunton
29 Jul 09 |  Leicester
Allen and Parling sign for Tigers
24 Jul 09 |  Leicester
Guinness Premiership Ins and Outs
25 Aug 09 |  English

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