Sale stun champions Leicester in opener

Sale director of rugby Kingsley Jones (pictured) has revealed that his team’s motivation behind their season opening 15-12 victory over Guinness Premiership champions Leicester was fuelled by talk of the team being written off as also rans for the season.

The Sharks have failed to reach the play-offs in the last three seasons and lost a number of key players during the summer. They have subsequently been tipped for a season of struggle but lacked nothing in spirit against the Tigers.

Sale merited their victory after five penalties from Lee Thomas, and great determination against a late onslaught from Leicester.

Speaking on the Guinness Premiership site Jones said: “I’m quite happy to carry the tag of underdogs but I’m disappointed the players keep having thrown in their face about the players who have left. We are now in September, and I used that in my speech today.

“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. The recruitment was based on guys who are going to give more to the team, and it was our attitude that won us the game.”

Jones, who singled out prop Eifion Roberts and replacement Martin Halsall for particular praise, admitted his nerves were frayed in the closing stages.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Leicester have been widely tipped to retain their crown this season. But they struggled to create genuine try-scoring opportunities at a rain-lashed Edgeley Park in front of the watching England manager and Tigers great Martin Johnson.

Leicester claimed four penalties from debutant fly-half Jeremy Staunton but had to be content with a losing bonus point.

Head coach Richard Cockerill said: “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?”

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