Bath Rugby avenged last weekend's defeat at the AJ Bell Stadium by seeing off Sale Sharks 32-26 in thrilling fashion at a sunny Recreation Ground this afternoon.
Thanks to some sharp lines of attack from tighthead Henry Thomas and David Denton, Bath made inroads into the Sale 22 in the first few minutes. In the shadow of the posts, George Ford stepped his way out of danger and popped to Ollie Devoto, who evaded two tacklers to score. Ford converted for a 7-0 lead.
A little over ten minutes after the opening whistle, Bath took a tap-and-go with a free-kick from a scrum in Sale's 22 that allowed the combined strength of Rob Webber and Charlie Ewels to pile over from close range and the lock to score. Ford again converted to double Bath's lead.
Bath's fly-half kept the scores ticking over a couple of minutes later with a good penalty kick that took the score to 17-0.
The visitors' forays into the Bath 22 were infrequent during the first half - indeed, Bath spent the lion's share of the 40 minutes in the away end - and when Sharks did finally threaten with a 5m attacking lineout, the home pack was able to repel their mauling advances and win back possession to end the half.
Half time: Bath Rugby 17-0 Sale Sharks
Sale were the quicker side out of the blocks in the second half, their fly-half Danny Cipriani kicking straight to the corner with a 43rd-minute penalty. From that strong position, inside centre Johnny Leota was on hand to take a quick pick-and-go and touch down in the corner. Cipriani converted to draw the scores closer. 17-7.
Sharks lock Andrei Ostrikov followed up Leota's try with one of his own, and from a similar position, only minutes later - with Cipriani adding the extras. The Sale fightback was on. 17-14.
Ford extended Bath's lead to 20-14 with a penalty in the 54th minute, but it was four minutes later that the home team truly broke free as wing Semesa Rokoduguni started and finished an attacking phase into the Sale 22 that ended with him crossing the whitewash in the right corner. 25-14.
Replacement scrum-half Will Homer, not long on the field as a replacement for Chris Cook, then made a scintillating break down the right wing to score the first Premiership try of his career. The flourish was added by Ford's touchline conversion: 32-14.
Bath now had their try bonus point - and the result - in the bag, but Sale's never-say-die attitude saw the men from Manchester claw back a bonus point of their own with tries in the 78th and 80th minute, through TJ Ioane and Leota respectively.
Bath's penultimate home match of the season proved an entertaining one, with Leicester Tigers to come in a fortnight's time.
Full Time: Bath Rugby 32-26 Sale Sharks
23 April 2016
Referee: Ian Tempest
Half Time score: 17-0
- Tries: Devoto (1), Ewels (11), Rokoduguni (57), Homer (71)
- Conversions: Ford (2, 12, 72)
- Penalties: Ford (15, 53)
- Tries: Leota (42, 83), Ostrikov (47), Ioane (77)
- Conversions: Cipriani (43, 48), Ford (83)