- Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill admits Sale were unlucky
- England flanker steps up is recovery with 55 minutes in first start for three months
Photo: Getty Images
Leicester director of rugby Richard Cockerill admits he would not have begrudged a Sale victory in Friday's Aviva Premiership fixture, in which England flanker Tom Croft played nearly an hour.
The Tigers secured their ninth win on the spin at Edgeley Park as fly half Jeremy Staunton kicked six penalties in an 18-16 victory.
The victory puts the defending champions nine points clear at the summit and Cockerill paid tribute to the desire of his players after grinding out the win.
He said: "I think we did enough to win the match but if Sale had won we wouldn't have complained too much.
"We had enough chances in the first half and perhaps should have scored a couple of tries.
"We had opportunities where we could have built up a healthy scoreline and got away from them but we didn't.
Tom Croft comes through unscathed
"However, this group of players are working really hard and really that's all that matters."
Only a fine saving tackle from Scott Hamilton on Rob Miller secured victory for Leicester, for whom England flanker Tom Croft played 55 minutes on his first Tigers start since October 23 to step up his return from a broken shoulder and nerve damage.
Cockerill added: "The determination to make the tackles, get onside and roll away from the ball was immense.
"That won us the game and the effort was great but we need to improve for next week."
Sale competed gamely throughout and will feel bitterly disappointed not to have claimed victory, although a losing bonus point at least ensured they did not finish empty-handed.
Charlie Hodgson attempted a late drop-goal attempt that would have clinched victory for his side but the ball sailed wide to leave Sale too close to the relegation zone for comfort.