Bath Rugby slay Sale as Barkley bids fond farewell
Match report: BATH RUGBY 31 SALE SHARKS 10
By Harry Abbott
Three second-half tries saw Bath Rugby record their biggest win of the season as they gave Olly Barkley the perfect send off with victory over Sale Sharks.
The fly-half kicked 16 points on his final appearance for the club before departing for Top 14 side Racing Metro 92, helping Bath see off the Aviva Premiership's bottom side at The Rec.
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It was Barkley who got the first points on the board when he landed a tenth-minute penalty from out wide on the right after Sale counterpart Nick MacLeod had earlier missed his own chance to break the deadlock.
A second kick from the Bath fly-half followed soon after when Stephen Donald capitalised on a wayward pass from Rob Miller but MacLeod halved the deficit when he was on target with a penalty.
The hosts looked most threatening when Donald was in possession and his clever grubber kicks continued to catch the Sale defence napping but were just too strong for the charging Tom Biggs and Kyle Eastmond. Sharks, meanwhile, barely ventured near Bath's tryline and two more Barkley penalties extended the advantage.
The visitors' task became even harder five minutes before the break when Tom Brady was sent to the sin-bin for taking out Ben Skirving in the air, although they had the final chance before half-time but again MacLeod was off-target with a long-range kick.
It took until ten minutes into the second half for either side to cross the whitewash, with Sharks unable to hold back Davey Wilson. The prop burst through the visitors' defence on halfway and got his side within touching distance of the line. Possession was worked from one side to the other and again it was Wilson who emerged with the ball to smash his way over, with Barkley converting.
Sale hit straight back, though, and after a period of intense pressure Johnny Leota was able to cross from short range. MacLeod added the extras before Barkley failed for the first time with the boot with what seemed a routine penalty.
The touchdown seemed to inspire the visitors and the introduction of Danny Cipriani almost resulted in a second try. The replacement fly-half found Brady in space and only a last-ditch tackle from Eastmond kept him out.
Sale continued to be on top but when Bath were finally able to clear their lines it was they who scored next. Barkley led a counter attack from the hosts' line and fed Biggs, who chased his own deep kick to win a penalty. Barkley opted to find touch and Bath won the lineout and drove over the line, with Skirving claiming the vital touchdown.
Barkley's conversion attempt was again off-target but there was still time for more late drama. Sharks were reduced to 14 men again for the final few minutes when Andy Powell was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Dominic Day deep in Sale territory.
The hosts eventually worked themselves to a scrum which they forced over the tryline and were awarded a penalty try when Sharks were seen to collapse it. And Barkley was able to complete his fairy tale goodbye, returning to form to add one final flourish with the boot.
The victory will come as a welcome relief to head coach Gary Gold following his side's previous back-to-back defeats and provides a big boost ahead of next Saturday's local derby against Gloucester at Kingsholm.
BATH RUGBY: Abendanon, Eastmond, Hipkiss (Cuthbert 77), Donald (Vesty 63), Biggs, Barkley, Claassens (McMillan 77), James (Catt 67), Mears (Batty 63), Wilson (Perenise 67), Hooper (Skuse 78), Attwood (Day 59), Fearns, Skirving, Taylor.
Tries: Wilson, Skirving, Penalty Conversions: Barkley 2 Penalties: Barkley 4
SALE SHARKS: Miller, Brady, Leota, Tuitupou (Addison 59), Cueto, MacLeod (Cipriani 63), Willis (Fowles 59), Roberts (Croall 72), Taylor (Ward 59), Buckley (Cobilas 62), McKenzie (Gaskell 59), Myall, Doyle (Easter 47), Seymour, Powell.
Tries: Leota Conversions: MacLeod 1 Penalties: MacLeod 1
Referee: Sean Davey