Sale win ugly over Bath but fail to convince

Sale win ugly at Barton-upon-Irwell on November 24, 2023

As Alex Sanderson, Sale’s coach said after his team’s ugly 11-9 win over Bath – they found a way to win. Sale are definitely in the mix to go one better this year and win the Gallagher Premiership. On Friday’s evidence, they need to be a lot better. They played a second-string Bath outfit who fought, scrapped, and stayed in the fight throughout. With a shortened fixture list, every game has added significance and Sale failed to convince with an ugly win over Bath writes Charlie Inglefield.

Bath going in the right direction

Bath is definitely moving in the right direction under coach Johan Van Graan despite losing to Sale. Van Graan picked a second-string outfit with only Finn Russell a guaranteed starter. A pretty daunting prospect travelling up to Manchester to face the biggest pack in the Premiership.

For 74 minutes Bath kept Sale at bay, leading 9-8, and were set to pull off a remarkable win. Finn Russell led his inexperienced backline with aplomb, conjuring as best as he could. Up front, GJ van Velze and his forward pack took it to Sale throughout. Bath were brave and tireless in defence, stopping wave after wave of Sale possession in the second half. Bath’s discipline eventually let them down giving Ford the chance to knock over the winning penalty.

Considering that Bath were missing most of their regulars, this performance will give them so much belief for the rest of the season. They mixed it with arguably the best pack in the Premiership and were fiercely competitive throughout. van Graan is definitely pushing his team in the right direction.

Luke Cowan-Dickie approaching his best again

The one bright spark for Sanderson was the first-half performance of Luke Cowan-Dickie. Cowan-Dickie was excellent all over the field and crucially in a tight contest like this one pilfered continually at the breakdown. Steve Borthwick, the England coach will be delighted to see Cowan-Dickie return to form so quickly after a long injury absence.

Sale’s much-feared pack was made to go all the way before eventually overpowering their Bath counterparts. A concern for Sanderson was how easy Bath turned Sale over at the breakdown. Cowan-Dickie aside Sale struggled to get parity at the breakdown where Bath’s smaller men managed to isolate and jackal throughout. As formidable and enormous as this Sale pack is, they were often isolated and slow to the breakdown.

Under-par George Ford gets the job done

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George Ford did kick the winning penalty but otherwise he alongside many of colleagues had a tough night out. Russell won the battle of the 10’s and Ford struggled to get into the game. The conversations around the England fly-half jumper potentially has a fourth name to the mix – Northampton Finn Smith. Ford needs to get his game back on song to be considered for the 2024 Six Nations.

Sale’s backline really struggled in the conditions where Bath’s loose forwards took full advantage. The frustration for Sanderson will be the amount of ball Sale had in the second half without ever looking likely to score. Despite winning ugly Sale will have to improve significantly if they are to challenge for the title.


Photo Credit: The Sale Sharks Facebook Page on November 24, 2023.