Four second-half tries from a dominant Sale Sharks led to a 32-9 defeat for Bath Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Rhys Priestland opened the scoring for Bath in a cagey first-half, knocking over the penalty after a Bath lineout had been turned into a full penalty by referee Ian Tempest after Andrei Ostrikov had instigated some pushing and shoving on the touchline. 0-3.
The Welsh international doubled the lead two minutes later with another penalty from the tee, before AJ MacGinty got his side’s first points of the afternoon on 13 minutes. 3-6.
The home side turned down two kickable penalties in an attempt to drive their way over the line, but the stubborn defence of Bath held them out, and they came away empty handed.
As the opening forty minutes drew to a close, Bath came agonisingly close to scoring, twice being held up over the line. Instead, they had to settle for a further three points from the boot of Priestland. MacGinty then added another three of his own to narrow the gap once more on the stroke of half-time.
Half-time score: Sale Sharks 6 – Bath Rugby 9.
Sale came out of the changing rooms firing in the second-half, and quickly started dominating the game. They scored two quickfire tries - Josh Strauss got the first, barrelling over from short range, before Byron McGuigan went over out wide. 18-9.
Their third came on 60 minutes through James O’Connor, the fullback juggling the ball before finally holding on and finishing off a good break from MacGinty.
The fly-half was at the heart of Sale’s fourth try as well – putting in a neat chip ahead for the on-rushing McGuigan. The winger and Bath replacement Chris Cook raced for the ball as it went over the line, but the awkward bounce saw it come back to Will Cliff instead, who dotted down. MacGinty added the conversion.
Bath continued to try and work their way over the Sale line, but the Sharks, buoyed on by the cheering home crowd, held firm and closed out the win.
Final score: Sale Sharks 32 – Bath Rugby 9.
AJ Bell Stadium
23 December 2017
Referee: Ian Tempest
Half Time score: 6-9
- Tries: Strauss (43), McGuigan (47), O'Connor (60), Cliff (71)
- Conversions: MacGinty (43, 62, 72)
- Penalties: MacGinty (13, 39)
- Penalties: Priestland (8, 11, 35)