Hodgson’s quality steers Sale back on course

Sale 23 Bath 16
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The Independent Online

Sale Sharks resurrected their Guinness Premiership title hopes last night in a match that will take pride of place in the ''ugly but effective'' category. Five weeks ago Sale were on top of the table but four successive defeats meant they had dropped to sixth prior to kick-off and their desperation to win this match regardless of aesthetics informed every area of their play. The fact that a prop forward in the guise of Andrew Sheridan was man-of-the-match says it all.

Sale remain in sixth as they failed to get a bonus point – unlike Bath who moved up to fourth with their bonus – but at least Sale now believe they have stemmed their recent bleeding.

''The attitude of the players was outstanding tonight,'' Sale's director of rugby Kingsley Jones said. ''If we play with that attitude and commitmentwe will get the results we want.

Charlie Hodgson gave Sale an early lead thanks to a regulation penalty before the home side were continually frustrated by a combination of superb Bath defence and extremely slow ball.

The Sharks did finally score on 18 minutes when Jason White offloaded to Mark Cueto who somehow slipped free of a decent looking tackle from Nick Abendanon and crawled over Bath's line for the score.

Hodgson danced over himself soon after and then converted to further Sale's lead until Ryan Davis slotted a late first half penalty to keep Bath vaguely in touch at 15-3.

Davis and Hodgson traded early penalties early in the second half before Davis marginally closed the gap again by kicking a further three-pointer but Bath never looked like mounting a definitive fightback.

Skipper Juan Fernandez Lobbe touched down after Sale pushed a scrum over Bath's line towards the end and although Jonny Faamatuainu pushed over from close out after Sebastien Bruno was yellow carded in the dying moments, Sale held on.

Sale: Tries Cueto, Hodgson, Fernandez Lobbe; Conversion Hodgson; Penalties Hodgson 2. Bath: Try Faamatuainu; Conversion Cuthbert; Penalties Davis 3.

Sale Sharks: Macleod; Cueto, Tait, Thomas (Keil 69), Ripol, Hodgson, Wigglesworth, Sheridan, Bruno, Roberts, Jones (D Tait 74) Cockbain, White, Briggs, Fernandez Lobbe.

Bath: Abendanon (Cuthbert 69); Stephenson, Cheeseman, Hape, Higgins, Davis (Supulo 69), Bemand (Baxter 74), Barnes, Hawkins, Bell (Jarvis 69), Harrison (Short 60), Hooper, Faamatuainu, Lipman, Browne (Beattie 33 ).

Referee: S Davey (RFU).