SALE Sharks began their Premiership Rugby Cup title defence with a last-minute 32-23 defeat at Leicester Tigers.

The opening stages of the game brought successful penalties by Tom Curtis and Bryce Hegarty, though Tigers also missed a couple of set-piece opportunities from attacking lineouts.

After a second Hegarty penalty, Jack van Poortvliet scored the hosts’ opening try and a Hegarty conversion took the lead to 10 points on 19 minutes and the Australian stretched that with his next penalty.

But Sale crafted a score in response just before the half hour, when Arron Reed latched on to Sam Dugdale’s clever offload to run in under the posts. The conversion by Curtis made it 16-10 at thye break.

The second half opened with Brink making a decisive impact in contact to win a penalty just inside the opposition half and Hegarty judged his kick for goal to perfection as he made it 22-10 to the home side.

Curtis added a penalty of his own, then Lancaster quickly replied with his first points for the club.

Sharks, though, built on indiscipline from Tigers to establish territory and Dugdale was able to force his way over. Curtis was off target with the conversion from out wide with the score at 25-18.

A missed lineout gave Sharks another chance to get forward and when they played advantage from the next scrum, centre Luke James found Dugdale in the wide channel and he ran in to score their third try. With the gap down to two points at 25-23, Curtis was off target with his conversion.

A superb chase and catch from Saumaki then had the crowd on their feet and, although Porter was taken into touch, Sharks missed their lineout jumper and the Tigers piled forward towards the line.

A penalty award followed and Porter arrived on the right of the ruck and charged over to put the outcome beyond doubt. Lancaster’s conversion added another two points.