England lock Dave Attwood’s try in added time stole victory for Bath Rugby in their LV= Cup opener after a 77th minute Mike Hayley score looked to have secured a draw for Sale Sharks.
Tries from Anthony Perenise for the visitors and Michael Paterson for the hosts in the opening period saw the teams go in tied at the break.
After the interval Bath scored through Matt Banahan who latched onto a Tom Heathcote chip and another eight points from Heathcote’s boot looked to be enough to secure victory.
But Hayley’s 77th minute effort and Nick Macleod’s conversion drew the scores level before Atwood came off the bench to snatch the win with Heathcote converting.
With under two minutes on the clock Sale went ahead though a Joe Ford penalty after Bath’s Martin Roberts had his clearing kick charged down inside his own 22.
Bath started ferociously up front competing strongly at every break down which had Sale and particularly scrum-half Will Cliff on the back foot.
But a blindside break from Cliff from a retreating Sharks’ scrum almost allowed Tom Brady go over in the corner after the ball was spread wide to the opposite wing but he was bundled into touch short of the line.
In the 22nd minute Bath capitalised on a Sale error when Ford was adjudged to have cleared straight to touch. From the lineout Samoan prop Perenise went over from a superb 20 metre driving maul with Heathcote nailing the conversion.
Sale, though, responded in kind seven minutes later with Ford opting for touch from a penalty with the pack barrelled over with Michael Paterson coming up with the ball leaving Ford a simple kick for the extras.
Bath built the pressure inside the Sale half briefly threatening the line before Heathcote punished the Sharks from a penalty minutes from half time sending the sides in tied at ten piece.
Swirling rain greeted the re-start and with neither side able to hold onto the ball for long periods they both opted to play for territory.
Heathcote missed a chance to nudge his side ahead from the tee and soon afterwards a knock on cost Bath a promising position created by a nice offload from replacement Banahan.
Sale spilt the ball at the resulting scrum and Heathcote responded by sending an easy drop goal through the posts in the 55th minute.
With a number of replacements introduced the match remained tense with kicking ruling as the slippy ball was hard to hang onto.
From a rare period of concerted field position Bath managed to push Sale back and though another powerful driving maul put the Sharks’ line in danger.
Retaining the ball through a number of phases Heathcote put in a delicate chip that Banahan grounded to put the visitors up in the 74th minute. The conversion proved no trouble for the Scottish fly-half
But another Ford penalty and a late Mike Hayley try that Nick Macleod converted drawing the score level with two minutes remaining.
But with time expired after several minutes of frantic play it was Attwood, on as a replacement for Ryan Caldwell, who won the game as he stole the ball to race clear and swandive over the tryline.
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