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Sale Sharks 20 Bath Rugby 29

06 Sep 2014
Sale Sharks 20 Bath Rugby 29

Semesa Rokoduguni’s second-half try quelled a Sale Sharks fightback to ensure Bath Rugby banished their recent record against Steve Diamond’s side.

Anthony Watson’s early try put Bath on the front foot but they were pegged back by a scrappy Mark Jennings effort and Danny Cipriani’s boot.

Sale, who completed a league double against Mike Ford’s men last season, took the lead through Mark Easter but Rokoduguni flew over late on, while a flawless George Ford kicked Bath clear of the hosts.

Watson got the visitors off to a flying start, capitalising on some hesitancy under Ford’s accurate cross-field kick to pluck the ball out of the air, sprint clear and dot down inside two minutes.

Ford added the extras to open up a seven-point lead and Bath immediately set about seeking to extend that, as the fly-half kicked a dangerous penalty for touch.

Captain Stuart Hooper took the catch cleanly and found Leroy Houston, who bundled over the line – but a lengthy TMO deliberation adjudged the No.8 to have knocked on in the process.

Some powerful scrummaging on their own five-metre line got the Sharks out of trouble and once Danny Cipriani had cleared the line, the hosts began to settle into the contest.

Veteran second row Nathan Hines – on debut for Sale – stole two Bath lineouts inside the opening quarter of an hour, but the hosts couldn’t capitalise on either occasion.

And they were further behind when a high tackle on Jonathan Joseph handed Ford a penalty, which he gratefully accepted.

But despite their newfound ten-point advantage, Bath were soon down to 14 men with Dominic Day sin-binned for a late tackle on Danny Cipriani.

Cipriani, making his 100th Aviva Premiership appearance, dusted himself off and placed the ball on the tee, easing it between the posts with his left boot.

That boost was quickly followed by a hammer blow for Sale as captain Dan Braid limped off with injury, replaced by new boy Magnus Lund, and Ford soon added a second penalty.

However, Cipriani’s clever re-start was immediately claimed by Michael Paterson, who laid the foundations for his side’s opening try.

After Sale were held up short of the line, Jennings capitalised on a loose ball from the resulting five-metre scrum to dive over – and Cipriani added the extras.

Sale hands in the ruck handed Ford a third penalty but ill-discipline from the visitors ensured Cipriani could hit back on the stroke of half-time to make it 16-13.

A blistering start to the second half from Sale went unrewarded and another injury – this time to veteran wing Mark Cueto – added to their frustration.

They were then caught offside on the halfway line and Ford opted to put his perfect kicking record to the test, confidently dispatching the penalty from distance.

The hosts were finally ahead for the first time just 15 minutes before the end, when Easter finished off another scrappy effort on the Bath line.

Sale’s new-look pack – with only three of the starting eight still on the pitch – piled their way into the 22 and after another TMO consultation the try was awarded and Cipriani did the honours.

They almost extended the lead minutes later but a forward pass near the Bath line thwarted a third Sharks try and Rokoduguni made them pay, fed by Ford to power towards the line and dive over.

And after another superb conversion, Ford sent one more penalty from distance between the posts to wrap things up.

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