Bath Rugby edged out Sale Sharks in a 16-14 nail-biter at the Rec, with Taulupe Faletau and Francois Louw returning to strengthen the forward pack which proved the difference.
In a gritty midfield battle, Bath Rugby brought home the result to secure four points taking them up to fifth in the table.
The opposition arrived with a powerful group of forwards to challenge Bath at the set piece however it was fly-half, Rhys Priestland who opened the scores with nine minutes on the clock. Bath were awarded a penalty when Sale’s, James Phillips was caught offside. Priestland added an extra two points with a successful effort in front of the posts. [3-0]
Six minutes later Priestland stretched Bath’s lead out to six after another penalty was given when Sale failed to roll away in the tackle. [6-0]
During the first 40 minutes both sides put in a raw and gritty midfield battle. The Blue, Black and White delivered a near perfect defensive effort which saw Sale secure nothing by way of points. However, it was clear to see that neither side were really able to dominate in any one part of the game and the teams went in with Bath just six points ahead.
Half-time – Bath Rugby 6 – 0 Sale Sharks
The second-half looked like it would play out in the same manner with two heavy sets of players packing down and a back line waiting to fire. However, just five minutes in the first try of the game was found. Tom Homer kicked a superb up and under and claimed his own kick. He offloaded to Chris Cook who recycled quickly to Priestland running a good line towards the corner. The fly-half found Jonathan Joseph who then ran a brilliant line in the opposite direction to score. Priestland added extras. [13-0]
Nine minutes later Sale returned the favour and after a very well executed driving maul Akker van der Merwe went over the whitewash from close range. The following kick by Du Preez sailed through the uprights. [13-7]
Another try was found by the opposition just two minutes later. Sale were dominating the collisions which allowed Bryon McGuigan to find space to crash over after a number of pick and go’s. The kick by Du Preez was good which saw the visitors take the lead for the first time in the game. [13-14]
Bath found some light relief with ten minutes to go when they were awarded a penalty for a no arms tackle. The offence took place 45-meters out and the Rec held their breath as Priestland pointed for the sticks. Moments later the flags went up and the crowd erupted with cheer as the kick sliced through. The hosts had taken the lead again by a margin of two with 70 minutes on the clock. [16-14]
As the game went into the dying moments, it was clear that the men in Blue, Black and White had unsettled a quality Sale side to secure a home win. Bath Rugby held onto possession well and forced a penalty which allowed Cook put the ball into touch as Craig Maxwell-Keys’ whistle blew. A big win for Bath, and a big four points.
Bath Rugby now head to Kingsholm to face Gloucester Rugby in a West Country derby on Saturday 4th January for Round 8 of the Gallagher Premiership.
Full-time – Bath Rugby 16-14 Sale Sharks
15. Tom Homer, 14. Semesa Rokoduguni, 13. Jonathan Joseph, 12. Jamie Roberts, 11.Anthony Watson, 10. Rhys Priestland (C), 9. Will Chudley: 1. Beno Obano; 2. Tom Dunn, 3. Will Stuart, 4. Josh McNally, 5. Elliot Stooke, 6. Tom Ellis, 7. Francois Louw, 8. Taulupe Faletau,
16. Jack Walker, 17. Lewis Boyce, 18. Christian Judge, 19. Matt Garvey, 20. Josh Bayliss, 21. Chris Cook, 22. Freddie Burns, 23. Aled Brew
28 December 2019
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Half Time score: 6-0
- Tries: Joseph (45)
- Conversions: Priestland (45)
- Penalties: Priestland (8, 15, 70)
- Tries: van der Merwe (54), McGuigan (58)
- Conversions: du Preez (55, 59)