Bath Rugby came away from the AJ Bell Stadium tonight with a losing bonus point after being beaten 19-13 by Sale Sharks.
After one penalty miss a-piece from Danny Cipriani and George Ford, it was Cipriani who opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a drop goal. A break from the back of the scrum led Sale well into the Bath 22, and with the home forwards picking and going, the ball fell back to the waiting fly-half who sent it straight through the posts. 3-0.
The lead was short-lived however, as Semesa Rokoduguni side-stepped his way to the try line. A well taken lineout and heaving driving maul saw Peter Stringer emerge with the ball. The scrum-half found Rokoduguni on the wing, and the Fijian jinked his way through three on-coming defenders from about 40 metres out to sail over the line. Ford added the conversion, 3-7.
Alafoti Fa'osiliva, on for Leroy Houston, very nearly scored an astonishing try as he charged 50 metres up field. It looked very much like the Samoan had scored, with a thumping hand-off on his way to the line, only for the Television Match Official to rule no try due to a foot in touch.
It was in fact the home side who were next to score, Cipriani adding a penalty before Andy Forsyth crossed in the corner after a series of phases from the home side spread the Bath defence too wide. Cirpriani added the conversion. 13-7.
Bath quickly worked their way into the Sale half and earned a penalty at the scrum, successfully scored by Ford, but this was cancelled out minutes later with another penalty from Cipriani.
Half-time: Sale Sharks 16 – Bath Rugby 10.
The second-half started in much the same way as the first half finished , with the kickers trading testing up and unders. When Sale were awarded a penalty on the half-way line, Cipriani stepped up and added a further three. 19-10.
It was then Ford's turn for a long range shot, and whilst that attempt drifted wide, he made amends with his next attempt, reducing the deficit to six points.
As the 60 minute mark ticked over, Sale were reduced to 14 men after lock Michael Paterson was shown a yellow card. The penalty chance was missed however, and although Bath had upped the tempo from the start of the second-half, they were unable to take advantage of the extra man as the galvanised Sale defence kept them from crossing the whitewash.
Sale missed two further penalties, one from Man of the Match Cipriani and one from his replacement Joe Ford, and even though Bath mounted attack after attack in the dying minutes of the game, the stubborn home defence stood firm.
Final score – Sale Sharks 19 – Bath Rugby 13.