Leicester battle back for victory
Leicester Tigers produced an astonishing second-half comeback to beat Sale 29-13 at home in the second round of the LV= Cup.
Trailing 13-3 at half-time after being bullied for 40 minutes, the Tigers blitzed the Sharks after the interval with 26 unanswered points, including four tries, to earn themselves a bonus point.
Leicester's second win in as many games kept them top of Pool Three on a day when England prop Dan Cole made a successful comeback in the second half after surgery on a neck injury he suffered in last season's RBS 6 Nations.
Winger Miles Benjamin scored twice for the Tigers, with the other tries coming from Harry Thacker and Matt Smith, while Michael Paterson replied for Sale.
Freddie Burns also kicked nine points for Leicester, with Nick Macleod booting eight for Sale, while both teams saw players shown yellow cards in Smith and Mike Haley.
Leicester have won all four of their Anglo-Welsh matches against Sale, who have now lost on their last eight visits to Welford Road.
Sale won the first half 13-3 and would have been disappointed not to lead by a bigger margin considering the stranglehold they had on the game.
Their more experienced pack dominated a Tigers eight which had an average age of just over 20, especially in the scrum where they rolled them backwards with ease.
Despite their huge amount of possession and territory, the Sharks scored only one try, lock Paterson crossing from a catch and drive in the 26th minute.
Macleod, playing his first game at fly-half since the Amlin Cup quarter-final defeat by Northampton in April, kicked the conversion and also slotted two penalties from three.
The first came in the fourth minute after the Tigers collapsed a scrum, and although Burns equalised two minutes later, Macleod added another in the 16th minute.
He then scuffed a third attempt two minutes later, and while Leicester centre Smith was sent to the sin bin for foul play, Sale stretched their lead to 13-3 with the only try of the half.
It came after Leicester had again been penalised at a scrum. Macleod kicked for touch and, from the line-out, Sale drove over the line with Paterson getting the touchdown.
Centre Sam James also got over the line in the 39th minute but the try was chalked off because a player was ahead of the kicker during a counter attack down the right wing.
The complexion of the game changed completely after the break, though, as Leicester rattled up 14 unanswered points in 13 minutes thanks to tries by hooker Thacker and Smith.
The first stemmed from a scrum which Leicester won, earning themselves a penalty. They kicked to touch and, following a line-out, Burns made a half break and found Thacker on his shoulder to finish it off.
Burns kicked the conversion and after Leicester got themselves in another strong position on the Sale line, they introduced Cole for his first game since neck surgery and fellow prop Riccardo Brugnara.
Thacker came close to scoring a second after a thrilling counter attack but Leicester kept the pressure on and Smith darted over from close range after winger Miles Benjamin had caught Sale napping with a quick tap penalty.
Burns added the conversion to make it 17-13 before missing with a long-range penalty.
With Sale full-back Haley in the sin-bin for tackling Tommy Bell in mid air, Leicester turned the screw with their third try straight from a line-out, Benjamin's power and pace taking him past four defenders. Burns missed the conversion.
Benjamin then added a second four minutes later after a simple pass from Smith put him away down the left, with Burns adding the extras to complete the comeback.