Sale clinch big win over Bath
March 22, 2013
Sale clinch big win over Bath
Tom Brady's late try secured a priceless victory for Sale Sharks in their battle to avoid the drop as they overcame Bath 14-13 in horrific conditions.
With survival at stake, a solid first half performance from Sale took them into the break 9-3 ahead through three Nick Macleod penalties. Bath, who still harbour top-four ambitions, responded before the interval via Tom Heathcote's three-pointer.
Horacio Agulla's try then took the west country outfit into the lead, but Brady's excellent finish sealed the win and took them six points clear of London Welsh, who play Gloucester on Saturday.
In snow-laden conditions it was the Sharks who had the first foray into the opposition 22 as Macleod's well-judged kick was taken into touch by Nick Abendanon. Dave Attwood did break through the hosts' rearguard with a powerful run but, after that move broke down, the match remained attritional in the early exchanges.
That was until Abendanon's poorly directed clearance fell in the grateful arms of James Gaskell. Good hands then set up an excellent position from which the visitors were caught offside and Sale's stand-off put them 3-0 ahead after 21 minutes.
Steve Diamond's men were starting to get on top with their impressive driving maul to the fore, but it was Bath who had a chance to level matters when the home side were penalised for not rolling away. Heathcote missed from the edge of the 22 but made up for that error soon after when he equalised from further out.
Bath's Matt Banahan on the charge against Sale © Getty Images
However, it wasn't long before the Sharks were back in the lead as Bath infringed straight from the restart. Macleod converted the resulting opportunity and then added a further three-pointer just before the interval as they established a deserved 9-3 half-time advantage.
But Gary Gold's team had the wind at their backs in the second period and they immediately put pressure on the Sharks' defence. It eventually paid off when Matt Banahan's surge and off-load found Agulla and the winger scampered over. Heathcote converted to move the visitors into the lead for the first time and it looked ominous for the side second-bottom in the Premiership.
Nevertheless, Sale continued to show plenty of determination with their forwards particularly carrying well. And they found a decisive score when a well-worked move saw Brady collect the ball out wide and he showed express pace to break the gainline and touch down. Although Heathcote reduced the arrears late on to one point, the Sharks held on.
Sale Sharks' director of rugby Steve Diamond said: "We were fortunate to get off the bottom of the league with the thing that happened with London Welsh, but we've done all right at home since Boxing Day. We've been beaten by a couple of the top-four sides and Montpellier but it's (the Salford City Stadium) starting to become a little bit of a home.
"In the first half I thought the conditions were all over the shop and we won fair and square, and in the second half we had good composure in the last 10-15 minutes. Tom Brady came on and scored a good try. There wasn't much rugby played out there but in those conditions you can't really expect it."
Meanwhile, Bath head coach Gary Gold admits that their chances of reaching the top-four have all but ended. Gold said: "We came in here today setting ourselves goals and objectives to hopefully be in the top four. That's probably gone now but never say never. We'll probably be written off by everybody now so we've got a lot to prove."
"It was incredibly frustrating," he added. "It was always going to be a game of very small margins. The character shown by the guys after being 9-3 down at half-time was good. It's difficult to say whether we were the masters of our own demise. Both lineouts struggled, a couple of calls went our way and a couple of calls went their way. I think there were a couple of basic things that we could have done better and our lineout could have functioned better."
Sale Sharks' Marc Jones is tackled by Bath's Paul James © PA Photos
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin