Bath Rugby slip to defeat against Sale

Bath Rugby were unable to get back to winning ways after they lost out to a defiant Sale Sharks. Despite a try from Michael Claassens and six points from Olly Barkley, it wasn't enough to overcome a dogged Sale side. Final Score Bath Rugby 13 Sale Sharks 16. 

Bath began the game at a ferocious pace putting the defending Sale under immediate pressure. A sliced clearing kick provided the home side with an early platform to attack from with which they began their onslaught on the Sale try line. The possession of the ball changed a handful of times following turn overs in the contact and Sale took their turn in attacking as they made their way into the Bath half. Despite a busy five minutes both teams failed to manage to capitalise on their possession.

However, another well answered clearance kick by Nick Abendanon initiated the next promising attack from Bath. As the slick hands enabled the ball to make its way that bit closer to the Sharks try line, the pressure got the better of the guests and they conceded the penalty by coming offside at the breakdown. Barkley, making his first start since breaking his leg last March, slotted a fantastic penalty and subsequently reached an impressive milestone of over 2000 points for Bath. 3-0.

The opening quarter seemed to show Bath displaying a dominance over their opposition, but just lacking the points to show for it. Despite this, Bath's constant bombarding on the Sharks defensive line eventually bared fruit. The quick distribution among the Bath hands, with Barkley managing traffic superiorly, unleashed the outside backs and they tore down the touch line. Great supporting play from the likes of flanker Guy Mercer secured the ruck and the momentum seemed to have been lost as a flailing foot in the ruck chipped the ball into open play. But Sale's over exuberant defence blitzed up and as scrum-half Claassens scurried to collect the ball, the defence left a gaping hole and Claassens didn't need a second invite, bursting through to score just right of the posts. Barkley added the conversion. 10-0.

As the half time whistle blew, Bath had taken a ten point lead and would have gone in at half time frustrated having not scored more points having had the vast majority of possession. However, ten points to nil at the half way mark signified a clear lead and a solid defence for the home side.

A not so positive start to the second half for Bath resulted in a brace of penalties to Sale, allowing fly-half Nick Macleod to take his chances at goal, luckily only one of which he succeeded in. Sale seemed to be building confidence in the second half and an apparent role reversal saw the away side start to control the game. Huge prop Tony Buckley snipped through at the fringes and bundled down the centre of the pitch and towards the Bath line. Quick recycling by the Welsh international, Dwayne Peel, fed the Sharks backs the fluid ball they needed and as the ball reached the touch line in possession of England winger, Mark Cueto, he smashed through to cross over for a Sale try. Macleod struck a wide kick well to level the scores. 10-10.

Bath rang a handful of changes as the game entered the last quarter with new loan signing Chris Biller, Charlie Beech, and Anthony Perenise coming on for Will Tanner, David Flatman and David Wilson respectively. Fresh legs in the pack brought a new lease of life to the Bath side and they began to work their way once again into the Sale half. Once again, Barkley was pulling the strings in the backs, lofting a beautiful pass to the winger Olly Woodburn who made considerable ground. The Bath pace was causing problems for the Sale defensive line again and another offside infringement provided Barkley with a key opportunity to take Bath ahead. From around 35 metres out, a great strike sailed through the posts to take Bath ahead by an important three points. 13-10

However, two successive penalties against Bath cancelled their advantage and witnessed Sale going ahead for the first time all game with two successive penalties as the game entered the final ten minutes. 13-16.

Bath, desperate to make amends for last weekend's disappointing loss to Worcester Warriors, mounted a dedicated assault to cross the line. An attacking lineout set base needed for the Bath attack and a break though the middle from fly half Tom Heathcote looked to be promising, only for the young fly-half to be halted by Cueto, resulting in referee JP Doyle reverting to a previous penalty advantage awarded to Bath. After a worrying period in which the Bath medical team treated Heathcote after the hit from Cueto, the game resumed and Bath, looking for the win, opted for the lineout instead of the penalty to draw the game.

Bath were throwing everything they had at the Sale try line, following a well taken catch and drive line out. After umpteen phases of play, the Sale defence had stood strong and despite what seemed like a try from Charlie Beech crossing over from close quarters, Sale managed to regain possession of the ball following a knock on, and as the last ten seconds ticked away, they held there until the time was up and the whistle had blown. 

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