Sale 22 Bath 6: Hodgson's poise keeps Sale in touch with leaders

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The Independent Online

Charlie Hodgson delivered another masterclass as Sale reaffirmed their Premiership title credentials by dispatching leaders Bath in dreadful conditions at Edgeley Park.

Incessant rain meant the match was only given the go-ahead after a pitch inspection 30 minutes before kick-off and it was Sale and Hodgson in particular who adapted far better. The England fly-half bossed proceedings for Sale, landing 17 points with the boot and creating a first-half try for Oriol Ripol with a well-judged crossfield kick.

Hodgson has found himself behind Danny Cipriani and Jonny Wikinson in the international pecking order, but he continues to prove invaluable to his club to keep them in play-off contention. Hodgson opened with two penalties before his opposite number, Shane Berne, missed a penalty from distance before finding his range in the 14th minute. There were handling errors aplenty from both sides with Bath full-back Nick Abendanon knocking on to end a promising counter-attack on half-way.

Hodgson remained prominent and a delightful drop goal extended Sale's lead shortly after the half-hour. On the stroke of half-time he flighted a kick into the left-hand corner, behind Bath wing Andrew Higgins and inviting enough for Ripol to give chase. Higgins caught the ball but inexplicably then dropped it, allowing Ripol the easiest of tasks to collect possession and ground with ease.

Gloucester-bound Olly Barkley dragged Bath back into contention shortly after the restart with a routine penalty, but two further Hodgson penalties sealed a victory which keeps Sale tucked in nicely behind the Premiership's leading pack.

Sale: Try: Ripol Cons: Hodgson Pens: Hodgson 4 Drops: Hodgson Bath: Pens: Berne, Barkley

Sale: Foden, Sevealai'i, Bell, Thomas, Ripol, Hodgson, Wigglesworth, Faure, Briggs, Turner, C Fernandez Lobbe, C Jones, White, J Fernandez Lobbe, Chabal. Replacements: Bruno, Roberts, Schofield, Cox, Cliff, Laharrague, McAlister.

Bath: Abendanon, Higgins, Cheeseman, Fuimaono-Sapolu, Banahan, Berne, Claassens, Stevens, Mears, Bell, Borthwick, Grewcock, Short, Lipman, Goodman. Replacements: Dixon, Flatman, Purdy, Feau'nati, Baxter, Crockett, Barkley.

Referee: Andrew Small