Sale dig deep to deny Bath
March 28, 2014
Bath's Nick Abendanon is hauled to a stop
© Getty Images
In-form Sale snatched a typically gritty 12-11 victory at third-placed Bath to press their claims of an Aviva Premiership play-off place. It was the Sharks' fifth win in the last six away games in all competitions and only Bath's second league defeat at home since December 2012. Bath claimed a losing bonus point but are now in a three-way fight for third and fourth place with Leicester and the Sharks, lurking in fifth.
Sale's match-winner was fly-half Danny Cipriani, who scored four penalties from four attempts to outshine Bath's George Ford, with England's newest cap missing three of his five place-kicks including, crucially, the conversion of Ross Batty's 75th minute try. Ford might still have won it for Bath at the death but the 21-year-old had one drop goal attempt charged down and fired another just wide to end the match.
Sale were in control for much of the game but were relieved that referee Dean Richards showed only one yellow card, to replacement prop Henry Thomas, as they conceded six scrum penalties on the same patch of mud on their own five-metre line.
George Ford misses with a drop-goal attempt with the last kick of the match © Getty Images
A Paul James 'no arms' tackle allowed Cipriani to kick the opening penalty after seven minutes but Ford levelled at 3-3 from short range soon after when the Sale backs were caught offside. Sale, moving the ball confidently, were rewarded with a second Cipriani penalty when Matt Garvey was penalised for a high tackle on hooker Marc Jones.
The visitors were also winning the scrum battle, as Bath conceded two penalties on their own heel, the second giving Cipriani his third successful penalty, this time from nearly 50 metres.
Try-scoring chances were few and far between, however, but No.8 Leroy Houston brought the crowd to their feet by running straight over the top of Dave Seymour and Ford pulled back three points when Sale infringed at a ruck. The Bath fly-half had a chance to draw his side level just before half-time for a similar offence, but the kick drifted wide from near half-way and Sale were well worth their 9-6 lead at the break.
Bath were caught trying to play their way out of their 22 soon shortly after the restart and presented Cipriani with his fourth successful kick, with Ford again off target at the other end.
Bath built a period of pressure and when Sale collapsed a five-metre scrum - their fourth penalty in seven scrums on the same patch of ground - Thomas was shown the yellow card on 68 minutes. On it went, with two more penalties without the scrum being completed before Sale eventually scrambled the ball into touch to end a farcical 15-minute sequence.
Bath finally forced their way over from a line-out catch and drive in the 75th minute with hooker Batty emerging from the heap of bodies. This time the television match official found in Bath's favour but Ford's conversion was wide.
With less than a minute remaining, Ford had a drop goal attempt charged down by Nick Macleod and then was agonisingly wide with another attempt right on the final whistle.
David Wilson charges upfield © Getty Images
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