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Aiva Premiership: Sale hang on for 12-11 win over Bath
Sale's surge towards an Aviva Premiership play-off place gathered pace following a hard-fought 12-11 win over Bath at the Rec on Friday night.
Steve Diamond's men produced a heroic defensive effort amid unrelenting second half pressure from Bath to claim their fourth league win in a row and close the gap on fourth-placed Leicester, who play Saturday, to three points.
Danny Cipriani kicked all 12 points for Sale while opposite number George Ford was left to rue a missed conversion from Ross Batty's 76th minute try, as well as a sliced drop-goal in the dying stages.
Sale were in control for the first half of the game but were relieved that referee Dean Richards showed only one yellow card, to replacement prop Henry Thomas, as they conceded six scrum penalties on the same patch of mud on their own five-metre line.
A Paul James 'no arms' tackle allowed Cipriani to kick the opening penalty after seven minutes but Ford levelled at 3-3 from short range soon after when the Sale backs were caught offside.
Sale, moving the ball confidently, were rewarded with a second Cipriani penalty when Matt Garvey was penalised for a high tackle on hooker Marc Jones.
The visitors were also winning the scrum battle, as Bath conceded two penalties on their own heel, the second giving Cipriani his third successful penalty, this time from nearly 50 metres.
Try-scoring chances were few and far between, however, but number eight Leroy Houston brought the crowd to their feet by running straight over the top of Dave Seymour and Ford pulled back three points when Sale infringed at a ruck.
The Bath fly-half had a chance to draw his side level just before half-time for a similar offence, but the kick drifted wide from near half-way and Sale were well worth their 9-6 lead at the break.
Bath were caught trying to play their way out of their 22 soon shortly after the restart and presented Cipriani with his fourth successful kick, with Ford again off target at the other end.
Bath built a period of pressure and when Sale collapsed a five-metre scrum - their fourth penalty in seven scrums on the same patch of ground - Thomas was shown the yellow card on 68 minutes. On it went, with two more penalties without the scrum being completed before Sale eventually scrambled the ball into touch to end a farcical 10-minute sequence.
Bath finally forced their way over from a line-out catch and drive in the 75th minute with hooker Batty emerging from the heap of bodies. This time the television match official found in Bath's favour but Ford's conversion was wide.
With less than a minute remaining, Ford had a drop goal attempt charged down by Nick Macleod and then was agonisingly wide with another attempt right on the final whistle as Bath suffered only their second league defeat at home since December 2012.
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Aviva Premiership Table
|Friday 5th September|
|19:45||Northampton vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 6th September|
|14:00||Sale vs Bath|
|14:00||Saracens vs Wasps|
|15:00||Leicester vs Newcastle|
|16:30||London Irish vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 7th September|
|14:00||London Welsh vs Exeter|
|Friday 12th September|
|19:45||Harlequins vs Saracens|
|Saturday 13th September|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Sale|
|15:00||Bath vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Exeter vs Leicester|
|Sunday 14th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Northampton|
|15:00||Newcastle vs London Irish|
|Friday 19th September|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Exeter|
|Saturday 20th September|
|14:00||Sale vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Saracens|
|15:15||Bath vs Leicester|
|Sunday 21st September|
|14:00||Newcastle vs Northampton|
|Friday 26th September|
|19:45||London Welsh vs Gloucester|
|Saturday 27th September|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Sale|
|15:15||Northampton vs Bath|
|Sunday 28th September|
|14:00||Wasps vs Newcastle|
|14:00||Exeter vs Harlequins|
|Friday 3rd October|
|19:45||Bath vs Saracens|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com