Bath have made a less than classic start to the Aviva Premiership season but they still know how to stage a finish: the last act of yesterday's game was given to Olly Barkley, the conversion of a penalty try before the fly-half leaves tomorrow for Paris to take up a new contract with Racing Métro 92. Barkley has spent 10 years at the Recreation Ground and leaves with Bath's good wishes and the thanks of an 11,000 crowd ringing in his ears.
But there will also be some unease at his departure, since his goal-kicking has underpinned the club's three successes from this month's five Premiership games and 16 points against Sale kept him, however temporarily, at the top of this season's points-scorers.
Not half the unease, however, that exists at Sale. They have now lost all five games, their worst-ever start to a Premiership campaign, and have no more than one point at the foot of the table to show for their September efforts.
In a penalty-ridden game they lost two players to the sin-bin and their errors, rather than the creativity of the home club, contributed significantly to the four penalties that gave Bath their half-time advantage.
As is so frequently the case with struggling sides, good fortune favoured the opposition. Tom Brady was harshly dealt with for his mid-air challenge on Ben Skirving, the wing receiving the first of the yellow cards, and a midfield block which, arguably, denied Sale a try when only 19-10 down went unseen.
Instead Bath scooted off with a loose ball, were stopped only five metres from the Sale line and, ultimately, scored their second try through Skirving.
Steve Diamond, Sale's chief executive who has now taken over the role of forwards coach, was in close conversation with Sean Davey, the referee, as the match ended to discuss that specific incident. But had Sale made the most of an earlier opportunity, when Brady fastened on to a bobbling chip by Danny Cipriani but was hauled down a metre short, everything would have been to play for.
As it was, Barkley could draw a line under his West Country career with a happy heart. "The last thing I wanted to do was go back into an unhappy changing room, so there was a feeling of relief," he said. "The realisation that I might not be walking across the pitch in a Bath jersey again was sad, but it's time for me to move on to a new challenge."
He and his club rode their first-half luck: Barkley's first penalty might not have been given after an overthrown line-out and what appeared to be midfield obstruction. The second came after an ill-conceived flick by Andy Powell straight into the path of Stephen Donald – who will take over the No 10 shirt and the goal-kicking from Barkley – and the fourth after a poor kick by Rob Miller which gave Michael Claassens the chance to counterattack.
David Wilson, in the week he was recalled to England's senior squad, led the second-half charge, quite literally. The prop burst into the Sale 22 and, when the ball moved back left then right, was in support of Claassens to score.
Johnny Leota wrestled his way over for the kind of Route One try which seemed Sale's only hope, creating some frustration among the Bath coaching staff, who want their players to develop the killer instinct which was once taken for granted at the Rec.
But when Tom Biggs skipped out of his own half and kicked ahead to win the position from which Skirving was rolled over the line, the result was no longer in doubt.
Anthony Perenise knocked on in the act of scoring and Powell received a yellow card for a clumsy challenge on Dominic Day which was more frustration than anything else, though Day made a considerable impact off the bench.
In Powell's absence, Bath opted for a five-metre scrum and rolled back the Sale pack to win the penalty try which gave Barkley his last, and easiest, points.
Bath N Abendanon; K Eastmond, D Hipkiss (J Cuthbert, 76), S Donald (S Vesty, 62), T Biggs; O Barkley, M Claassens (M McMillan, 76); P James (N Catt, 66), L Mears (R Batty, 62), D Wilson (A Perenise, 66), S Hooper (capt; W Skuse, 78), D Attwood (D Day, 62), C Fearns, S Taylor, B Skirving.
Sale Sharks R Miller; T Brady (sin-bin, 32-42), J Leota, S Tuitupou (W Addison, 59-63, 74), M Cueto; N Macleod (D Cipriani, 63), C Willis (N Fowles, 57); E Lewis-Roberts (A Croall, 72), T Taylor (J Ward, 57), T Buckley (V Cobilas, 61), F McKenzie (J Gaskell, 57), K Myall, J Doyle (M Easter 48), A Powell (sin-bin, 79-89), D Seymour (capt ).
Referee S Davey (London).
Tries: Wilson, Skirving, penalty try
Cons: Barkley 2
Pens: Barkley 4
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