Grind and a worrying bump for Hodgson

Sale 20 Bath 14
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The Independent Online

After a weekend in glorious Technicolor with England, it was back to the monochrome of the Premiership for Jason Robinson and Charlie Hodgson, both of whom scored tries in an entertaining first half. But an ankle injury sustained by Charlie Hodgson just before the break threatened to swing this match Bath's way.

Hodgson's injury is not thought so serious as to keep him off England's bench in Paris on Saturday, but Sale were forced to rejig their midfield, bringing in Jos Baxendell to outside-half and moving Robinson to outside centre, with the dependable Vaughan Going filling in at full-back

Bath came alive after Hodgson left the field and a second Olly Barkley penalty reduced the deficit to 13-6 at the break. For much of the third quarter, Bath also held the upper hand, but came up short on genuine creativity. As their head coach, Jon Callard, acknowledged afterwards: "In the second half at least we were able to sustain some momentum, but we lacked penetration."

Bath's Premiership form has been more down than up, and before yesterday they were languishing two places off the bottom of the table. The loss of Mike Catt for the remainder of the campaign with a shoulder injury, has done nothing to boost their chances of finishing high enough to qualify for Europe next season.

With both first-choice scrum-halves injured, the West Country side have signed Kevin Dalzell from Montferrand until the end of the season, though they started with Scotland Under-21s Rob Chrystie in the No 9 shirt.

Once Dalzell got on, it took the American all of 30 seconds to make an impact. Bath were piling on the pressure when the former Rec man Kevin Yates upended Danny Grewcock at a line-out. Fists flew and Yates was dismissed to the sin bin. Maul followed brawl and Dalzell crawled beneath a pile of bodies to claim the unlikeliest of tries.

Sale's response was to tighten their defence and work their way upfield. Once in space, Baxendell worked his way out of Kevin Maggs' tackle to cross for their third try. Baxendell's conversion left Bath needing a try and two other scores to get a result.

With the strengthening wind at their backs, Sale had little difficulty in pinning Bath deep in their own half. They escaped just long enough for Barkley to kick his third penalty, though there was nothing else on offer.

Sale: J Robinson; M Cueto, J Baxendell, M Deane, S Hanley; C Hodgson (V Going 40), B Redpath (capt); K Yates, A Titterrell,(C Marais 64) S Turner (A Black 64), I Fullarton, S Lines, C Jones, R Wilks, A Sanderson.

Bath: M Perry (capt); I Balshaw, K Maggs, M Tindall (A Crockett 75), T Voyce; O Barkley, R Chrystie (K Dalzell 52); D Barnes, M Regan, S Emms (J Mallett 53), S Borthwick, D Grewcock, G Thomas, N Thomas, M Gabey (J Scaysbrook 68).

Referee: S Leyshon (Bristol).