Todd Blackadder was quick to pay tribute to Bath Rugby talisman Matt Banahan after he became the first player in blue, black and white to score 50 Aviva Premiership Rugby tries in their 30-3 victory over Sale Sharks on Friday.
Banahan crossed the whitewash after only three minutes to gift the hosts the early lead, and was named man of the match following an inspired performance at the Rec as Bath moved into second in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
It was a memorable night too for George Ford as he surpassed 800 Aviva Premiership Rugby points with 15 from the tee under the Friday night lights, as Kahn Fotuali’i and Kane Palma-Newport put the game out of the Sharks’ reach with a late try apiece.
Despite taking the early advantage, it wasn’t until the second half that Bath truly found their feet, and while director of rugby Blackadder was thrilled with the result, he admits their slow start to proceedings did cause him concern.
“I think in the first half, it certainly didn’t feel like that was [Bath’s best performance] from their point of view,” he said.
“We started really well, we probably tried a little too hard and gave a few penalties away which is frustrating, if anything, it just didn’t feel like we were building pressure.
“Matt has been fantastic for us. I think if anything, this year he has just come back and he’s excited about his rugby again, and he’s doing simple things really well for us.
“He’s making a big impact and he’s really been our talisman so far.”
In contrast, Sale’s director of rugby Steve Diamond accepted his side’s defeat was deserved, admitting the Sharks never really left the dressing room in the second half.
They now occupy fifth place in the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings – though that is set to change after the rest of the weekend’s action –and Diamond hopes they can return to winning ways during the European break.
“We gave a couple of soft tries, we changed the bench and the people who came on probably didn’t reach the expectations we set,” he said.
“At 16-3, I thought we at least had a chance to get a bonus point, but fair play to Bath, they’re on a roll and they’re difficult to beat.
“This isn’t the Sale that we are used to. We reached some highs last week beating Harlequins but we didn’t really get out of bed I don’t think.
“I think we were error-strewn really, our kicking game wasn’t very good and George Ford’s kicking game was outstanding so we got beat convincingly in all areas, so no complaints really.”
Bath Rugby: Homer; Rokoduguni, Joseph (Williams 67), Banahan, Brew; Ford (Hastings 77), Fotuali’i (Cook 61); Catt (Auterac 56), Dunn, Thomas (Palma-Newport 61); Stooke (Mercer 56), Attwood; Garvey, Ellis (Ewels 53), Mercer
Replacements: Batty, Auterac, Palma-Newport, Ewels, Mercer, Cook, Hastings, Williams
Sale Sharks: McGuigan (Haley 47); Addison, James, Leota, Odogwu; MacGinty (Mugford 61), Phillips (Mitchell 59); Lewis-Roberts (Harrison 47), Briggs (Pearce 59), Mujati (Aulika 46); Evans, Mills (Ostrikov 53); Neild, Seymour (Lund 56), Beaumont
Replacements: Harrison, Aulika, Ostrikov, Lund, Pearce, Mitchell, Mugford, Haley
Tries: Banahan, Fotuali’i, Palma-Newport
Conversions: Ford (3)
Penalties: Ford (3)
Referee: Tom Foley