Fixture pile-up likely for Leeds as Falcons date is lost

LEEDS CARNEGIE face the possibility of playing midweek fixtures in their bid to beat the drop from the Aviva Premiership.

Yesterday's rearranged match at Newcastle Falcons was postponed for a second time due to a frozen pitch and with a home game against league leaders Northampton Saints still to be rescheduled, Leeds are running out of free weekends.

Their anticipated exit from the LV Anglo-Welsh Cup opens up the weekends of March 12-13 and 19-20, when the knockout stages of that competition are to be played, but both the Falcons and the Saints can still qualify for the last four.

And with all three teams still in the mix to qualify out of the group stages of their respective European competitions, the weekends of April 9-10 and April 30-May 1 may not be available.

That creates the possibility of midweek fixtures to clear the Carnegie backlog. By the time they host Gloucester at Headingley Carnegie on New Year's Day (1pm), Leeds will not have competed in the Premiership for five weeks.

The dates for the club's remaining Amlin Challenge Cup fixtures have been announced. Leeds travel to Paris to tackle Stade Francais on Sunday, January 16, (6.45pm), and host Bucaresti Oaks on Sunday January 23, (2pm).

Yesterday's game at Kingston Park was postponed at lunchtime. Although large areas of the pitch were deemed playable by match referee Wayne Barnes and both clubs had agreed to narrow and shorten the pitch – within regulations – to allow the game to go ahead, the deteriorating weather in the North East had seen the pitch start to re-freeze.

Leicester made light of the absence of a host of their England internationals to crush sorry Sale 54-21 at Welford Road.

The Tigers, who were without the services of England half-backs Toby Flood and Ben Youngs and influential forwards Tom Croft and Jordan Crane, ran in 21 points in the opening 13 minutes to leave the visitors reeling.

The Tigers racked up eight tries with two each for Manu Tuilagi and Scott Hamilton.

Leicester coach Richard Cockerill was not entirely satisfied with his side's display, admitting he was disappointed they had allowed Sale – under the guidance of new coach Peter Anglesea – to cross three times.

Cockerill said: "It is a difficult time of year and with them losing their (former) coach (Mike Brewer) we didn't know what to expect from them.

"It was a big start from us with three tries and we are delighted with the five-point win, the boys took their opportunities, but conceding three tries was not great."

In the day's other Premiership game, George Lowe's try sealed the points in a 28-18 win as Harlequins inflicted an eighth consecutive defeat in all competitions on struggling London Irish.

Harlequins fly-half Nick Evans finished with 23 points from seven penalties and a conversion while opposite number Chris Malone scored all of London Irish's points.

In the Championship, both Doncaster's trip to Nottingham and Rotherham's visit to Birmingham and Solihull, re-scheduled for today, have been postponed.