Sale 38 Bath 12: Hodgson ensures home help for Sale as Bath dry up

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The Independent Online

Three tries in as many minutes took Sale out of Bath's reach at a sold-out Edgeley Park last night in a sparkling game to which Bath contributed far more than the final score suggests.

It was 19-12 with 12 minutes remaining, when Olly Barkley broke clear with not a Sale defender in sight. But in the build-up to Barkley's escape there had been a forward pass. Had he scored, it would have tied matters. Bath had been playing so well that Sale were rocking badly and desperate to break free from Bath's suffocating defence. With only one prop on their bench, Bath threw a flanker, Chris Goodman on, so we had uncontested scrums.

From there on Sale put together a mesmerising blitz of uncontested attacks for Chris Mayor, Mark Cueto and Chris Jones to cross in quick succession to earn the Sharks a bonus point and guarantee them a home semi-final in the Premiership play-offs.

Sale's patience and a refusal to bend to Bath's will, together with some enterprising play in which forwards and backs combined, were the foundations for the victory which keeps them at the top of the table in their best ever season. Charlie Hodgson chipped in with the other try, three convertions, together with four penalties for a personal haul of 23 points.

Bath were bursting with bustle and adventure in a sparkling opening spell in which they showed they intended to beat Sale at their own running game. David Bory and Alex Crockett were a constant threat, while the hard-working James Hudson helped himself to any amount of lineout ball, plus a second-half try. Bath outside-half, Chris Malone, deceived everyone with a show of the ball for a smashing try, which he then converted, to herald the break at 9-7. But hard as Bath fought, it was Sale's second half and their night.

Sale: Tries Hodgson, Mayor, Cueto, Jones Conversions Hodgson 3 Penalties Hodgson 4. Bath: Tries Malone, Hudson Conversion Malone.

Sale: Robinson (capt); Cueto, Taylor, Seveali'i (Mayor 66), Ripol; Hodgson, Martens (Wigglesworth 66); Coutts (Faure 53), Titterrell, Turner (Stewart 63), Jones, Schofield (Lobbe 53), White, Lund, Chabal (Day 74).

Bath: J Maddock; N Adendanon, A Crockett, O Barkley, D Bory; C Malone, A Williams (Walshe 16-27); D Flatman (Goodman 68), P Dixon (Hawkins 54), D Bell (Loader 54), J Hudson (Fidler 73), P Short, J Faamatuainu, G Delve, I Feaunanati (capt)

Referee: M Fox (Leicestershire).