Match Reaction: Sale Sharks 23 Bristol Rugby 24
Bristol Rugby acting head coach Mark Tainton paid tribute to his side’s battling resilience as they started 2017 as they mean to go on with a 24-23 victory over Sale Sharks – their first Aviva Premiership Rugby away victory since March 2008.
Bristol had got off to a slow start at the AJ Bell Stadium as Sale raced into an early lead thanks to a penalty try and a score from Denny Solomona, plus five points from the boot of James Mitchell.
But with half-time approaching, the West Country outfit narrowed the deficit to just five points at the break as Tom Varndell scored to equal Mark Cueto’s all-time Aviva Premiership Rugby try record, with Jason Woodward adding a penalty and a conversion.
— Billy Searle (@Searly10) January 1, 2017
And following an early Sale try from Johnny Leota, Rhodri Williams and Max Crumpton crossed the whitewash for the visitors, with Woodward’s conversions turning the tie on its head and leading Bristol to their second league victory in succession.
“We’re delighted obviously to come away from home and get a Premiership win, which is something Bristol haven’t done for a long, long time,” said Tainton.
“That gives us two league wins on the bounce, and with two European Games, four wins, so it has given us very good momentum.
“We’re not going to change the way we are playing, we’re going to try and keep the ball in hand, and we’re going to shorten defence as much as we can. When we’ve got players like Tom Varndell, we want to get the ball in his hands and get him scoring tries.
— Bristol Rugby (@Bristol_RFC) January 1, 2017
“Credit to the back row today for dogging it out and winning those 50-50 battles late in the game, enabling us to get the win.
“It was fantastic to see so many fans up here on New Year’s Day, it’s a long journey and in the changing rooms after, the players were talking about it and how appreciative they are. It keeps them going on.”
Despite watching his side throw away a 13-point advantage, Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond was quick to praise their visitors’ determined performance.
Sale travel to Harlequins on Saturday, and Diamond urged his side to capitalise on their chances as they fell to their fifth league defeat on the trot.
— Sale Sharks (@SaleSharksRugby) January 1, 2017
“I think we have to give credit to Bristol for responding every time we got in front of the game with their never-say-die attitude,” he said.
“We didn’t control the game well at all, we managed to score and play some good rugby but we didn’t have the confidence to back it up.
“There are a lot of good sides in the competition and anyone can beat anyone on the day, as it was shown today.
“In my opinion we should have controlled the game better in the second half and we didn’t, and Bristol took their opportunities.”
Sale Sharks: Haley, Solomona, Leota, Tuitupou (MacGinty 62), Charnley, James, Mitchell (Phillips 72), Harrison, Webber, Aulika (Longbottom 62), Mills (Ioane 72), Ostrikov, Neild (Briggs 74), Lund, Beaumont
Replacements: Flynn, Curry, McGuigan
Bristol Rugby: Woodward, Wallace, Palamo, Hurrell, Varndell, Searle (Jarvis 48), Cliff (Williams 55), Bevington (Traynor 55), Hawkins (Crumpton 59), Cortes (Ford-Robinson 55), Tuohy (Phillips 65), Glynn (Sorenson 65), Fenton-Wells, Robinson, Eadie
Tries: Penalty, Solomona, Leota
Penalties: Mitchell (2)
Tries: Varndell, Williams, Crumpton
Conversions: Woodward (3)
Referee: Ian Tempest