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Final day delight as the Lions avoid relegation with last gasp win at Sale

Final day delight as the Lions avoid relegation with last gasp win at Sale

Gareth Collins2 May - 18:49
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Sale FC 14 Leicester Lions 23

The Lions travelled to Sale on the final day of the season knowing that a win would secure their National 1 status but a loss would most likely result in relegation.

The home side started strongly but the Lions defence held firm and secured the first points of the game when Dan Lewis kicked a straightforward penalty from directly in front of the posts following the Lions' first visit to their opponents 22. He then added a second on 18 minutes to give the Lions a 0-6 lead.

Both sides had plenty of attacking opportunities but it was the Lions who struck first when the impressive Joey Patrick kicked in to space from half way and then won the race for the ball to touch down in the corner. Lewis was on target again with the extras. 0-13

It had been an even contest for the first half and Sale deservedly got on the scoreboard just before half time when centre Connor Doherty crashed over from close range following a period of exerted pressure from the home side. James Robins converted to reduce the arrears.

HT 7-13

The second half started much as the first half did, with both sides having periods of territory. This time it was Sale who struck first though as winger Tom Walsh finished off the back of a long pass. Robins converted again to give the hosts a narrow lead. 14-13

With time ebbing away, and news that Taunton were winning at Blackheath, the Lions were really up against it. They did come close following an Ethan Godefroy break but a turnover close to to the Sale line was picked up by Tom Walsh for what looked like an easy run-in for the pacy winger. However, in what was to be a game defining moment, Toby Cousins turned and caught the flying winger and proceeded to turn the ball over.

The Lions then worked their way up the pitch and earned a penalty which Luke Bouchier dispatched from 35 metres to give the Lions a narrow lead with just 5 minutes to play. 14-16

With just a couple of minutes left to play the Lions' safety was guaranteed when they moved the ball at pace in the backs to release Patrick who beat a number of covering defenders to score his second of the game. Bouchier converting again. 14-23

All that was left to do was claim the kick off and kick the ball out, which the Lions did, and in doing so secured another historic victory and a place in National 1 for next season.

Head coach Gareth Collins commented: '' Today was a pretty good reflection of the season really. We started well but then found ourselves in a hole, despite playing well. However we continued to work hard and found a way to come back. Once again the character of the side to dig ourselves out of that hole was unreal. You would never chose to be in that situation to be down with minutes to go but then win it at the death to stay up is pretty special.''

He added: ''It means everything to us to have survived. The group has worked so hard and stuck together all year. It was always going to take time to find our feet at this level but our form in the second half of the season has proved that we are a Nat 1 side.''

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