Nick Abendanon’s first-half try helped Bath to underline their Aviva Premiership play-off credentials with a hard-fought 19-7 victory at struggling Sale.
Abendanon, one of 12 players released from the England squad back to their club earlier this week, scampered over from close range in the 34th minute and Olly Barkley weighed in with a conversion and four penalties.
Sale, whose relegation fears were reawakened by last night’s defeat, lacked nothing in spirit and fashioned a well-worked score from winger Ben Cohen shortly before half-time.
Yet despite the presence of Charlie Hodgson, they lacked the guile to overturn Bath’s 13-7 lead after the restart and also suffered two first-half injury blows as prop Lee Imiolek hobbled off and wing Rhys Crane was carried off on a stretcher.
Bath led through an early penalty from Barkley, but light drizzle throughout made for handling errors aplenty but midway through the opening half, shortly after Sale had fashioned their most promising move of the game thus far, Barkley kicked another excellent long-range penalty to double Bath’s advantage.
Sale were hit by a sucker-punch six minutes before the break when Abendanon collected possession at the base of a scrum and scurried over from close range. Barkley converted but two minutes later Cohen was on hand to finish off a fine move orchestrated by Hodgson which stretched Bath down the left.
A visiting defender tried to haul Cohen into touch and looked to have succeeded until the video referee awarded the try after mulling over replays of the incident for several minutes.
A penalty from Barkley gave the visitors further breathing space in the 65th minute and with seven minutes remaining Hodgson saw a three-pointer rebound off a post, thus denying Sale a valuable losing bonus point.
Salt was rubbed into Sale’s wounds when Barkley kicked his fourth penalty with the final act of the game.
In the Championship, Rotherham suffered a 9-5 defeat at Moseley, a further blow to their hopes of making the end-of-season promotion play-offs.
Doncaster take on Esher at Castle Park today (2.30) with the Knights looking to get back on track as they hope to push on to the play-offs after a disappointing mid-week loss to Nottingham. The Yorkshire outfit were on the wrong end of a 40-15 scoreline at Meadow Lane.
A bottom-of-the-table relegation clash between Otley and Redruth in National League One sees both sides hoping victory can ease their relegation fears.
Wharfedale are also in action, entertaining high-flying Cambridge, one of the division’s form sides.