Sale boost top-four hopes with hard-fought win over Bath
Sharks fly-half AJ MacGinty scored two penalties to one from Bath counterpart Freddie Burns.
Sale kept their top-four hopes alive and severely dented Bath’s own aspirations following a scrappy 6-3 Gallagher Premiership triumph at the AJ Bell Stadium.
Sodden conditions meant the contest was not exactly a classic and a penalty apiece from Freddie Burns and AJ MacGinty were the only scores before the break as the sides went in level at 3-3.
Although the second period continued in much the same vein, the Sharks won the decisive moments and MacGinty’s second three-pointer of the match snatched the victory.
The last time these teams met – a 7-7 draw at the Rec – conditions prevented a free-flowing spectacle and the inclement British weather once again intervened on Friday night.
It was a disappointing affair with mistakes aplenty, but the visitors showed the greater control in the early exchanges.
Kahn Fotuali’i and Burns were dictating proceedings from half-back, while ball carriers Dave Attwood and Zach Mercer were consistently getting over the gain line.
Sale were also helping the West Country side out by infringing on a regular basis and it was providing Burns with opportunities from the tee.
Unfortunately for Bath, the fly-half could only kick one of his three efforts to open up a 3-0 advantage.
That was to prove costly as the hosts levelled with their first chance at the posts.
The Sharks had struggled to keep hold of the ball but, when they did get close to the opposition 22, Bath conceded a penalty and MacGinty duly bisected the uprights.
That was as good as it got in the first half with the teams locked at the interval and it continued that way in the second period.
Steve Diamond’s men were the slightly brighter outfit, with Faf De Klerk attempting to increase the tempo, but defences were well on top.
A kicking battle duly ensued as the weather worsened, but Todd Blackadder’s team had the ascendancy with the wind in their favour.
Bath controlled the game and put the hosts under pressure but they were unable to truly benefit.
Errors crept in at crucial moments in the face of some stubborn Sharks defence and the match was finely poised going into the final quarter.
The hosts did eventually break the deadlock through the boot of MacGinty, however, after a couple of poor penalties allowed Diamond’s charges vital field position.
Bath replacement Rhys Priestland should have immediately cancelled that out but his effort was awry and that swung the momentum.
The fly-half, perhaps frustrated by that miss, knocked on and gave Sale the chance to secure the win.
They failed to do that, though, even when Mercer had been sin-binned and that allowed the visitors one final surge.
To his credit, Priestland began the move with a fine break before Jonathan Joseph outstandingly went 30 metres up the field.
Will Chudley was on his shoulder and appeared to have a clear run, but he was tackled and the move was halted following fine work by the Sharks at the breakdown.
That ultimately won the game and kept Sale in the play-off picture.