Sale coach speaks up for banished Chabal

Bath 24 Sale 20
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The Independent Online

Sale are seeing red about a yellow card shown to Sébastien Chabal, the France international back-row forward, in this high octane, supercharged Premiership showdown, won right at the end by Bath with a smartly worked try.

Chabal was sent to the sin-bin midway through an ill-tempered first half for apparently throwing a punch, but he denied this, countering with an accusation of dangerous play by a Bath player.

"I was very unhappy when I was sent to the sin-bin," said Chabal, sporting a red mark below his left eye.

"Someone kicked me in the face. I think it was the scrum-half, but we will see that on the video, and we will cite him.

"It is not acceptable. He kicked me on the face and for that I jumped on his back, but I did not punch him."

Kingsley Jones, Sale's head coach, also sprang to Chabal's defence. "I do take exception to this perception that he is a dirty player.

"I know Sébastien and he has this reputation, perhaps it's because of his long hair and beard, I don't know, but I have been with him for four and a half years and I have never seen him throw a punch. He is a clean player."

In Chabal's defence, 10 minutes earlier Bath's lock, Justin Harrison, had grabbed hold of a fistful, which was a very sizeable clump, of the Frenchman's very long, black hair and tugged at it for a good half minute.

But Chabal did not appear to throw a punch on that occasion, maintaining his self control to a degree, despite the intensity of the provocation.

By that point he had already thundered some 30 metres through the Bath defence like a runaway water buffalo, throwing off tacklers as a rodeo bull might. So he was viewed as a clear and present danger. But so were so many of the Sale players, from the full-back Mark Cueto, scorer of two tries, to their front row. Bodies were put on the line and reputations were enhanced.

Sale had arrived at The Rec determined to show that they could play as expansive and exciting a game as Bath and that is precisely what they did - for 77 minutes, at least, contributing to an electric match.

Then, as Philippe Saint André, their director of rugby, said: "We didn't control the last three minutes. We made more mistakes then than we made in the first 77.

"But we showed today that we can compete against one of the best teams in Europe. And we outscored them three tries to two."

Unfortunately, the second of those Bath tries, a great piece of thinking by Alex Crockett and superb finishing by the wing Matt Banahan sealed Sale's fate and moved Bath up to second place.

The Bath fly-half Butch James pulled off some startling tackles to thwart the ever-dangerous visiting attack, and the Bath pack eventually got the better of the Sale dogs, after a match of much snarling and snapping.

Bath: Tries Browne, Banahan; Conversion James; Penalties James 4. Sale: Tries McAlister, Cueto 2; Conversion McAlister; Penalty McAlister.

Bath: N Abendanon (J Cuthbert, 40+6, ht, 76); J Maddock, A Crockett, E Fuimaono-Sapolu, M Banahan; B James, M Claassens (S Bemand, 70); D Barnes, L Mears (P Dixon, 72), M Stevens (D Bell, 72), J Harrison (S Hooper, 65), P Short, J Faamatuainu (A Beattie, 65), M Lipman (capt), D Browne.

Sale: M Cueto; C Bell, A Tuilagi (M Tait, 72), L McAlister, D Doherty; C Hodgson, D Peel; A Sheridan (L Faure, 74), N Briggs, S Turner (L Faure, 48-74), S Chabal, D Schofield (B Cockbain, 76), J White, L Abraham (L Faure, 33-40), J M Fernandez-Lobbe (capt).

Referee: D Rose (Warwickshire).