Carraro helps Bath put bad times to bed

Sale 12 Bath 25
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The Independent Online

The idea that a professional sportsperson can forget all off-field concerns the moment they walk on to the pitch is a favourite amongst armchair experts.

Yet the type of "white line fever" Bath Rugby Club has struggled with recently is of an entirely different nature and as a result their rugby has hitherto resembled an after-thought this season during losses to Gloucester and Wasps.

However, that all stopped against Sale last night as they comprehensively out-ran a home side almost bereft of imagination, which was proved when they could not even score with Bath reduced to 13 men late on.

"There has been a cloud over the club at times," Bath's head coach Steve Meehan said afterwards about the recent drug scandal which so besmirched the club's reputation. "We have not felt it as a weight but we are sort of back. Where the guys have applied themselves at training we saw the end results tonight."

Sale took an early 6-3 lead as fly-halves Lee Thomas and Nicky Little seemed to be setting the tone for another depressing kickathon, a tactic that is in serious danger of strangling much of the excitement out of the Guinness Premiership.

It comes to something when the most noteworthy moment in a game's opening is a penalty attempt, although to be fair to Thomas, he was trying to land a three-pointer from 10 metres inside his own half.

He missed but did then extend Sale's advantage to 9-3; Little narrowed the gap with a further effort of his own before the half thankfully awoke as a try was scored by Bath.

Little weighted a fine pass to recent Australian A signing Matt Carraro and he comfortably broke Ben Cohen's weak tackle to cruise over before Little kicked the extras.

Straight after the restart, Bath kept the ball in hand well – take note Sale – and after five penetrating phases, Matt Banahan found a gap big enough to squirm through next to the uprights.

Carraro's second try followed almost immediately as Shontayne Hape manufactured space down the right wing for his team-mate to do the rest.

Bath's flair was halted when Banahan was sent to the sin-bin for a trip and 14 soon became 13 when Andy Beattie joined him moments later. But too much water has gone under Bath's bridge of late for them to let this one go, and heroic scrummaging and tackling allowed them to escape with the win. "I have feared the game all week," Sale's Kingsley Jones said. "No team can turn up at any less than 100 per cent or they will lose and our intensity was nowhere near as high as it should have been."

Sale: Penalties Thomas 4. Bath: Tries Carraro 2, Banahan; Conversions: Little 2; Penalties Little 2.

Sale: MacLeod; Cueto, M Tait, Bell (Kennedy 69), Cohen (Ripol, 56); Thomas, Wigglesworth; Sheridan' M Jones, Roberts (Forster, 69), Gaskell, Schofield, L Abraham (Briggs, 40), D Seymour, C Jones. Replacements not used: Kerr, Cockbain, D Tait, Cliff,Tuilagi.

Bath: Cuthbert; Maddock, Carraro, Hape, Banahan; Little (Davis, 74), Claassens; Barnes (Flatman 76), Mears, Bell (Jarvis, 69), Short (Hooper, 65) Grewcock, Faamatuainu (Beattie, 72), Salvi, Skirving. Replacements not used: Dixon; Bemand, Stephenson.

Referee: D Pearson (RFU).