Over and out as Olly Barkley bids au revoir in fitting fashion
There are no immediate plans to bring in a replacement for Olly Barkley, despite a 16-point haul on his final appearance helping Bath Rugby overcome Sale Sharks.
The fly-half was given a standing ovation by The Rec faithful after the full-time whistle, eager to wish him well before he joins Top 14 outfit Racing Metro '92 this week.
Barkley remains the Aviva Premiership's top points scorer this season but although Bath will now have to do without his reliable boot, head coach Gary Gold is happy with his current options for the number ten jersey.
"We have a lot of goal-kickers in the squad and they need to do the job Olly was doing," said Gold.
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"It's an interesting one, though, because there was a lot of cry when we picked Olly at ten at the start of the season.
"Everyone said he hadn't played there since 2009 but three games later he got the opportunity of a lifetime to move on and everyone was saying 'how can the club let him go?'.
"Every team needs a world-class goal kicker but Stephen Donald was brought to the club as a fly-half. He's a player who has kicked for a World Cup victory.
"Stephen is the ten of choice. Sam Vesty and Tom Heathcote are his back-ups and we've got young Ollie Devoto coming through.
"The important thing in building a team that is sustainable for a number of years is that you shouldn't be reliant on one individual week in, week out."
True to form, Barkley's was the first name on the scoreboard last weekend as two penalties earned his side an early lead.
Sharks counterpart Nick MacLeod replied with a kick of his own but two further Barkley penalties gave the hosts a healthy cushion.
Tom Brady hindered Sale's chances even more when he was sent to the sin-bin just before the break for taking out Ben Skirving in the air.
Bath failed to add any points during Brady's absence but scored their first try immediately upon his return, with Davey Wilson smashing his way through the visitors' defence on halfway.
Sharks were only able to halt his run just short of the line but, after the ball had been worked from one side to the other, Wilson was finally able to finish the move he started, giving Barkley a simple conversion.
The hosts clearly felt the 16-point advantage was enough and Sale punished their sloppiness with a period of intense pressure. Johnny Leota finished off a sustained attack and Mac Leod added the extras.
The try lifted the visitors and Danny Cipriani almost created a second soon after. The replacement fly-half found Brady in space but Kyle Eastmond kept him at bay and, once Bath were finally able to clear their lines, it was they who scored next.
Tom Biggs chased his own kick to win a penalty, Barkley opted to find touch and Skirving drove over for an unconverted try after Bath had secured lineout ball.
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 opted for a scrum which they forced over the line. When a penalty try was awarded, Barkley was able to complete his fairytale goodbye by adding one final flourish with the boot.
"I am just happy to win four points," said Barkley. "The last thing I wanted was an unhappy changing room after losing three games on the bounce. That was my main priority.
"Walking across the pitch after the game, the realisation that I won't be doing it again in a Bath jersey was quite sad but I've had a fantastic time here and it is time to move on to a new challenge.
"I leave this place with a heavy heart but also with a happy one"