Bath Rugby gave Olly Barkley a winning send-off as they consigned Sale Sharks to a fifth straight defeat in the Aviva Premiership at the Recreation Ground today, final score 31-10.
The visitors had the first shot at goal, but fly-half Nick Macleod couldn't find his angle and missed the chance to give them an early lead.
Man of the hour Barkley, who was playing his last game in the blue, black and white before departing for Racing Metro 92 on Monday, made no such mistake when he was handed the ball for Bath's first penalty. A loose line-out from Sale saw Bath pounce and spread the ball wide. Kyle Eastmond was heavily involved in the build-up, and whilst he couldn't quite hold on to Stephen Donald's looping pass, the referee took play back for a penalty on the touchline. Barkley sent the ball sailing through the posts, to give Bath the lead on nine minutes.
He doubled the lead two minutes later, before Macleod got Sale on the board on 14 minutes. 6-3.
Bath kept looking to attack, forging their way up the field, but were unable to break the defence early on. Sale's indiscipline let them down though, with Barkley striking another solid penalty just before the half hour mark.
A sensational take in the air from Michael Claassens led to the next penalty, allowing David Wilson charged up the field in possession. Sale infringed, and Barkley secured three more. 12-3.
It went from bad to worse for the visitors as they soon found themselves a man down after Tom Brady took Ben Skirving out in the air from the re-start, and they had a chance to claw back three points moments later but Macleod was again off target with his attempt.
Half time score – 12-3.
Bath came out hard from the break, eager to turn the screw on the visitors, and it was Wilson who sparked the game into life.
The tighthead prop went on a bullocking run through the midfield, carving open the Sale defence. The ball was quickly recycled and sent through the hands of the forwards, before it was spread wide to Simon Taylor and Nick Abendanon outside. Abendanon couldn't find his way through to the line, but as the ball came back into the middle of the pitch, Wilson was on hand to power over from short range. Barkley was good with the conversion, extending Bath's lead to 19-3.
Sale were still fighting though, and hit back with a try of their own. Good work from their forwards took them within range, allowing Samoan centre Johnny Leota to burrow over and score. Macleod converted, bringing them back to within nine points of the home side.
The game was well into its closing stages when the next score occurred, and it came from an interception.
Bath were defending in their 22 when a sloppy pass found Barkley, who fed the ball wide to Tom Biggs. The winger raced away, and chipped ahead, trying to get the better of his opposite number, Mark Cueto. The ex-England wing fielded the kick well, but Biggs caught him in possession, and Cueto conceded the penalty. Opting for the lineout, the forwards secured the ball, drove hard, and sent Ben Skirving over to take Bath into a 24-10 lead with six minutes remaining.
Anthony Perenise looked to have scored Bath's third shortly after, but referee Sean Davey ruled no try, and instead it was the last play of the game that extended the winning margin.
With just a minute left on the clock Andy Powell hit Dominic Day with a dangerous tackle, seeing yellow for his troubles and Bath awarded a penalty.
They opted for the scrum, and after a monumental shove saw the Sale pack travel back at a rate of knots, the home side were awarded a penalty try, leaving Barkley to kick the final points of the game, and his last for Bath, to seal the win.
Final Score – Bath Rugby 31 – Sale Sharks 10.