JP du Preez scores as Sale see off Bath
MATCH REPORT: Sale Sharks stayed on course for a Premiership play-off place after beating Bath 24-20 at the Recreation Ground.
Alex Sanderson’s team moved second in the table, and six points from their remaining three league games should be enough to guarantee a top-four finish.
Bath, though, slipped to a club-record sixth Premiership home defeat this season as Sale claimed their first away victory in the fixture since 2014.
The Sharks again saw indiscipline surface as three second-half yellow cards made it a table-topping 21 for them in the Premiership this season.
But Bath captain Charlie Ewels was yellow-carded during the closing minutes, and Sale pounced to seal a bonus-point triumph.
First-half tries from lock JP du Preez, wing Byron McGuigan and full-back Simon Hammersley helped Sale tie a high-class opening half, and it was replacement hooker Curtis Langdon’s 77th-minute try that edged them home.
Flyhalf AJ MacGinty kicked two conversions – he also missed three shots at goal – while his opposite number Rhys Priestland landed four from four, slotting two penalties and two conversions.
Centre Cameron Redpath and flanker Josh Bayliss touched down for the home side, with Priestland’s second-half penalty not enough on the night as Bath keep fighting for Heineken Champions Cup qualification.
Bath handed a first Premiership start to hooker Jacques du Toit, who replaced a suspended Tom Dunn, while Sam Underhill and Zach Mercer gained back-row recalls, with Priestland and Will Chudley the preferred half-backs.
England star Tom Curry captained Sale, and his brother Ben was named in Sharks’ match-day 23 for the first time since suffering a shoulder injury five months ago, taking a spot among the replacements.
Bath, eager to bounce back from a comprehensive home defeat against Premiership leaders Bristol last time out, made an impressive start.
British and Irish Lions back Anthony Watson made a powerful run from deep, then full-back Tom de Glanville surged clear and sent Redpath over for a try, which was allowed despite De Glanville’s pass appearing to be forward.
Priestland converted, but Sale drew level just four minutes later after superb handling at pace by backs and forwards ended with an unmarked Du Preez touching down, before MacGinty added the extras.
MacGinty missed a penalty chance that would have put Sale ahead, and Bath struck again to end an entertaining opening quarter in front.
Centre Max Clark proved the attacking catalyst, brushing off weak Sale defence and then providing a one-handed pass that Bayliss gathered before sprinting clear and touching down.
Priestland’s conversion reopened a seven-point advantage, but Bath suffered an injury blow as half-time approached when Du Toit was carried off, meaning a Premiership debut for Tom Doughty.
Sale looked to have done enough for a second try four minutes before the break, but number eight Jean-Luc du Preez knocked on as he crossed Bath’s line.
They struck from their next attack, though, when Bath ran out of defensive numbers and McGuigan applied a simple finish, only for MacGinty to then miss a second successive kick at goal.
And Sale then drew level after superb work by flanker Cobus Wiese, whose pass found Hammersley, with the try being awarded after repeated checks initially for a forward pass, then whether or not the full-back had his foot in touch, and finally, if he had cleanly grounded the ball.
MacGinty again failed to land the conversion, and an opening half of five tries ended level at 17-17.
Bath struck first in the second period, with Priestland booting a 55th-minute penalty – his fourth successful strike that underlined MacGinty’s inaccuracy off the tee.
Wiese was then sin-binned for a technical infringement, and replacement scrum-half Raphael Quirke quickly followed him as the visitors were reduced to 13 men for an eight-minute spell.
But Sale weathered that particular storm, keeping Bath out, before Ewels was sin-binned five minutes from time and Langdon’s converted try secured a dramatic win, despite McGuigan seeing yellow.
Tries: Redpath, Bayliss
Cons: Priestland 2
Pens: Priestland 2
For Sale Sharks
Tries: JP du Preez, McGuigan, Hammersley, Langdon
Cons: MacGinty 2
Yellow cards: Charlie Ewels (Bath, 75), Raffi Quirke (Sale Sharks, 60), Byron McGuigan (Sale Sharks, 80)
Bath: 15 Tom de Glanville, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Max Clark, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Will Muir, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Will Chudley, 8 Zach Mercer, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Josh Bayliss, 5 Charlie Ewels (captain), 4 Will Spencer, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Jacques du Toit, 1 Juan Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Tom Doughty, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Christian Judge, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Orlando Bailey, 23 Joe Cokanasiga
Sale Sharks: 15 Simon Hammersley, 14 Byron McGuigan, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Marland Yarde, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jean-Luc du Preez, 7 Tom Curry (captain), 6 Cobus Wiese, 5 JP du Preez, 4 James Phillips, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Bevan Rodd
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 James Harper, 19 Cameron Neild, 20 Ben Curry, 21 Raffi Quirke, 22 Kieran Wilkinson, 23 Connor Doherty
Referee: Karl Dickson
Assistant Referees: Greg Macdonald & Simon McConnell.
TMO: Christophe Ridley.