Premiership Rugby Cup: Handre Pollard returns in Leicester Tigers win

Handre Pollard in training with South Africa
Handre Pollard, who kicked 22 points in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final victory over England, joined South Africa for training last month

South Africa fly-half Handre Pollard returned from injury to help Leicester Tigers win 18-14 at Sale Sharks in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

The 29-year-old, appearing for the first time since suffering a calf injury in May, played the final half-hour and had a hand in two tries.

Pollard missed out on selection for the Springboks' 33-man Rugby World Cup squad, but could yet join the defending champions in France having been placed on standby.

Elsewhere, Newcastle Falcons survived a scare at home against Bedford Blues to clinch a 26-16 bonus-point win over the Championship club.

The Blues led 16-12 with 15 minutes remaining but converted tries from Sebastian de Chaves and Adam Radwan gave the hosts victory at a rainy Kingston Park.

Newcastle sit top of Pool B on 10 points, one point ahead of Leicester and four points above Sale.

Meanwhile, Hartpury won 21-17 at Nottingham in an all-second tier encounter in Pool A. Both clubs had lost their opening fixtures, against Harlequins and Gloucester respectively.

The top side in each of the competition's four pools will make the semi-finals in early February, with the final scheduled for the following month.

Holders Exeter Chiefs host Cornish Pirates - in the first competitive meeting between the clubs since 2009 - among seven games on Saturday.

Pollard helps Tigers home

Pollard missed Leicester's Premiership semi-final defeat at Sale in May through injury, but his appearance at the AJ Bell Stadium could be his first step back into the international fold.

With Manie Libbok the only specialist fly-half in the Boks squad, head coach Jacques Nienaber has a chance to call up Pollard, who kicked 22 points in the 2019 World Cup final victory over England, as an injury replacement.

Leicester led 6-0 through two Gus Atkinson penalties when Pollard came on, yet Ethan Caine's converted try immediately put Sale in front.

However, scores from wingers Ollie Hassell-Collins and Josh Bassett, the first of which was converted by Pollard, gave the Tigers an 18-7 advantage.

Sale scored a late try through replacement prop Tumy Onasanya after debutant Bassett was shown yellow, but it came too late for the hosts to mount a comeback.

Newcastle Falcons wing Adam Radwan takes on the Bedford Blues defence during a Premiership Rugby Cup match
Wing Adam Radwan secured a bonus-point win for Newcastle Falcons against Bedford Blues

Newcastle were 12-3 ahead at the break against Bedford, with hooker Ollie Fletcher and centre Zach Kerr touching down after an early Louis Grimoldby penalty for the Blues.

Bedford then scored 13 unanswered points, with Sean French crossing after the winger and Grimoldby had both kicked penalties, but the Falcons responded to make it two wins from two.

Tries from number eight Jarrard Hayler and winger Alex Morgan helped Hartpury into a 15-5 half-time lead at Nottingham, and a second penalty from Harry Bazalgette gave the visitors a 13-point lead soon after the restart.

Jacob Wright crossed to give Nottingham hope of a comeback before Nathan Chamberlain's penalty made it 21-10.

After Hartpury replacement Charlie Rice was shown a 79th-minute yellow card, Nottingham grabbed a losing bonus point when prop Harry Clayton crossed.