Gavin Henson injury compounds Bristol misery in Sale defeat
Sale moved into the top half of the Aviva Premiership with a 31-13 win at basement side Bristol, whose misery was compounded by an injury to star back Gavin Henson
The Wales international was playing his second game of the campaign, having been out since the first day of the season due to a leg problem, but fell awkwardly on his shoulder after 12 minutes of his return and had to go off.
The Sharks grabbed a bonus-point win via first-half tries from wing Paolo Odogwu and full-back Mike Haley, with wing Byron McGuigan, replacement prop Eifion Lewis-Roberts and sub Tom Curry crossing in the second half.
McGuigan added two conversions and Dan Mugford booted one, against two Bristol penalties from fly-half Shane Geraghty and a try from wing David Lemi that Geraghty converted. However, the winning margin should have been more emphatic for Sale.
Their rugby director Steve Diamond would certainly have been talking about his side's handling at half-time as they went in 12-0 ahead but could easily have been out of sight.
Bristol should have scored a try when Lemi burst though the Sale defence but his pass to scrum-half Will Cliff went well forward. It was the home side's best moment of the half as the Sharks put the bite on them with two tries in eight minutes.
Odogwu stormed over in the left corner, put there with a pass from centre Johnny Leota after a drive on the right side of the pitch.
Haley, who was heading to Portugal to link up with Eddie Jones' England party after the match, showed why the national coach rates him with a storming try from 25 metres. McGuigan converted the touchdown but was the guilty party on both occasions when having golden chances to cross but dropped the ball both times.
But the wing made up for his errors five minutes into the second period when he finished off a break by fly-half Sam James and overcame covering Jack Tovey for an unconverted corner try.
Bristol secured their first Premiership points in 137 minutes when Geraghty, making his home debut, booted a penalty in front of the posts. With Sale hooker Neil Briggs sin-binned for collapsing a maul, Geraghty was on target again to put Bristol just 11 points adrift.
But normal service was resumed when Sale were back up to full strength as they forced Bristol to defend for their lives.The rearguard action crumbled though after 67 minutes when Lewis-Roberts rumbled over from a metre for the Sharks' fourth try that secured the bonus point.
Curry got Sale's fifth touchdown that Mugford converted six minutes from time. Lemi's consolation try, converted by Geraghty, in the final seconds at least had the Ashton Gate faithful cheering as one of Bristol's targeted 'must-win' games in their bid to stay up ended in defeat.