Although Luke James hit back for the home side, another Burns three-pointer appeared to have put the Tigers out of reach, but Sale had other ideas. Ben Curry began the comeback before further efforts from Arron Reed and Dan du Preez took the Sharks ahead.
Leicester did briefly regain their advantage through Montoya’s second try, but Alex Sanderson’s men were in the ascendency and successive AJ MacGinty penalties, allied by Tom Roebuck’s late breakaway try, sealed the win for the hosts.
The Tigers, with veteran Richard Wigglesworth in as skipper and scrum-half, were first on the board when Burns kicked a monster of a penalty from just inside the Sale half. The visitors had lost five of their previous six trips to Sale, but they signalled their battling intentions after 15 minutes when they bagged their first five-pointer. After winning their lineout in the corner, Montoya barged through the scrum to touch down for a try which Burns converted from out wide. Sale were not perturbed, however, and swiftly struck back.
A smart side-step from James allowed the hosts’ full-back to dart home to halve the deficit to 10-5.
Steve Borthwick’s men are not short on resilience, though, and it was not long before they were in again after Guy Porter thundered past two hefty challenges before going over in the left corner.
The Tigers took control in the second quarter when their passing and possession was much crisper.
They stretched their lead to 18-5 shortly before the interval when Burns nailed another exquisite penalty kick from long distance.
Sale had probed for openings throughout an entertaining opening 40 minutes, but the visitors looked to be at their imperious best.
Leicester made an equally competent start to the second period, with solid kicking and resolute defence keeping their opponents at bay. The visitors won another penalty decision just inside the Sale half, and Burns obliged with the boot again to make it 21-5.
It was starting to look as though the Tigers might be about to cruise home, but back came the Sharks. In the 52nd minute, Curry darted through a gap following a lineout and dived over to score. MacGinty added the extras. When replacement Reed touched down in the corner minutes later, Sharks fans almost raised the roof. MacGinty missed the tough conversion attempt but, at 21-17, Sanderson’s men were now back within sight.
When Dan du Preez then charged down Bryce Hegarty’s kick and dived over under the posts, the home fans went wild again. Their side had now turned the game on its head, with MacGinty’s conversion making it 24-21 to Sale. Montoya’s pushover try eased Leicester back in front, but joyous scenes greeted two nerveless penalty kicks from MacGinty and Roebuck’s late breakaway try as Sale sealed a thrilling fifth victory of the campaign.
Sale director of rugby Alex Sanderson:
“That was a fantastic game from the lads, and what a dramatic turnaround. Something was clearly missing in that first half in terms of intensity and putting the pressure on, but we definitely finished the game strongly and got a terrific result.
“Our physicality and pace was great to see, and after a game and a performance like that I can’t take the credit.
“All of the credit has to go to the players – they deserve that. This kind of result certainly bodes well for the future. It’ll lift energy and intensity around the place.”
Sale: L James; Roebuck, R du Preez, Van Rensburg, McGuigan; MacGinty, Cliff; Harrison, Ashman, Oosthuizen; J-L du Preez, De Jager; Ross (capt), Curry, D du Preez.
Replacements: Langdon, McIntyre, Jones, JP du Preez, Dugdale, Warr, S James, Reed.
Leicester: Hegarty; Potter, Scott, Kelly, Porter; Burns, Wigglesworth (capt); Whitcombe, Montoya, Cole; Wells, Green; Martin, Reffell, Wiese.
Replacements: Dolly, Van Wyk, Leatigaga, Liebenberg, Robinson, Van Poortvliet, Socino, Saumaki.