Match Summary – Sale Sharks 30-27 Bath Rugby
Bath Rugby were left heartbroken at the AJ Bell as Arron Reed crossed in the 80th minute to steal a win for Sale Sharks.
The hosts raced into a 22-3 first-half lead before Niall Annett dived over on the stroke of half-time.
Jonathan Joseph and Ben Spencer completed a miraculous comeback for the Blue, Black and White which looked to be enough, however Sale went wide in the final play of the game with Reed getting the crucial five points.
Josh McNally returned to action for first time in four months while Will Butt, Jonathan Joseph, Dave Attwood, Matt Gallagher, Ben Spencer, Valeriy Morozov, Niall Annett and D’Arcy Rae were also fresh faces from the starting team at Glasgow Warriors.
Another named in the 23 following a long time out was Beno Obano who was on the bench alongside Cameron Redpath and Sam Underhill.
For Sale, Rob du Preez lined up for his 100th appearance for the Manchester outfit as Alex Sanderson made seven changes to his side after defeat to Ulster in the Heineken Champions Cup last time out.
Sale Sharks: 15 Joe Carpenter, 14 Tom Roebuck, 13 Sam James, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Tom O'Flaherty, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Gus Warr; 1 Simon McIntyre, 2 Tommy Taylor, 3 Nick Schonert, 4 Cobus Wiese, 5 Josh Beaumont, 6 Jono Ross (c), 7 Sam Dugdale, 8 Jean-Luc de Preez
Replacements: 16 Ewan Ashman, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Joe Jones, 19 Rouban Birch, 20 Ben Bamber 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Luke James, 23 Arron Reed
Bath Rugby: 15 Matt Gallagher, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Max Ojomoh, 11 Will Butt, 10 Orlando Bailey, 9 Ben Spencer ©; 1 Valeriy Morozov, 2 Niall Annett, 3 D’Arcy Rae, 4 Dave Attwood, 5 Josh McNally, 6 Ted Hill, 7 Chris Cloete, 8 Miles Reid
Impact players: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Fergus Lee-Warner, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Cameron Redpath, 23 Sam Underhill
Johann van Graan talked about his side conceding too many tries in the first five minutes of matches but unfortunately for Bath, that occurred once again.
Following a yellow card shown to Butt for taking out a player in the air, scrum-half Gus Warr spotted space in behind on the left flank and full-back Joe Carpenter pounced for the game’s opening try.
The response was a positive one from Bath who cut Sale’s lead with a kick at goal from Spencer after a gutsy line-out move over the top to Max Ojomoh.
Sale came back in hard-nosed fashion, attempting in-roads into the Bath 22, though they came unstuck with the away side earning a couple of jackal penalties.
It allowed them a platform to build from and they went agonisingly close to crossing the whitewash for the first time. Joseph’s lovely wide pass was collected and galloped on to by centre partner Ojomoh who sent Gallagher hurtling up the wing. When the space was gobbled up, the former Munsterman booted inside but Warr beat Spencer to the ball.
A brilliant Rae tackle halted Cobus Wiese on a rampage up the right wing and Joe Cokanasiga’s sprint on the other side of the field was pulled up for a forward pass as both teams looked for a clearcut opening.
It came on 17 minutes for the Sharks as flanker Sam Dugdale broke from a fast-moving maul to dive over.
Moments later, the maul didn’t quite work for the hosts, however they were quick to exploit space on the right flank and Roebuck was set free to make it three on the board for Sale.
The maul was a clear weapon for Sale, and it worked again just after the half-hour mark. Hooker Tommy Taylor the beneficiary of the forward grunt work.
Bath grabbed a first-half lifeline with the clock in the red with the proverbially kitchen sink thrown. Annett barged his way over to give his team hope going into the second period.
A quick start to the second 40 was necessary for Bath and that is just what happened in vintage Joseph fashion.
Spencer’s grubber into the Sale half bounce up for the England centre on the 10 and he showed a clean pair of heels to power past a number of blue shirts to make it game on.
McNally, Ojomoh and Annett were all defensively sound in the phases that came after the restart and Gallagher’s outward arc almost saw him escape up the touchline.
However, when Ojomoh was sin binned for a deliberate knock on, Sale made their man advantage count as Rob du Preez kicked a simple three to move the gap between the sides to eight.
Then Redpath was sent to the bin too for a cynical off-the-ball tackle on Tom O’Flaherty to make it 13 on 15 men for a period.
Obano returned just shy of the hour and made an immediate impact at scrum time, destroying his opposite man to win a penalty which Spencer subsequently nudged to make it 25-20 to Sale on the scoreboard.
Academy product Ojomoh and Scotland international Redpath came back on from the naughty step and the latter’s magic edged Bath into a sensational lead.
Spotting space, he muscled his way on 20 metres and punted through. The foot race involved many, but it was captain Spencer who got the vital touch on the ball with his conversion completing a remarkable turnaround.
Du Preez missed two late penalties and it looked like a famous Bath victory was on the cards but Sale showed why they are in the top two of the Premiership and scored a dramatic try in the red through Reed.