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Sale sink in Bath
James returns to help West Country men to crushing win
Bath signed off from a disappointing LV= Cup campaign on a high note with a 40-7 demolition of Sale at the Rec on Saturday.
The West Country men, whose hopes in the competition had ended with defeat at Leicester last weekend, ran in six tries, including a hat-trick from right wing Michael Stephenson.
The victory was thanks in no small part to Butch James, who returned from a 10-month absence in impressive style.
The Springbok fly-half, who has undergone knee reconstruction since he was injured at Newcastle last April, needed just 40 minutes to show he was back in the groove.
Bath's first try came after just 90 seconds courtesy of Nick Abendanon, who was also restored to the starting line-up after six weeks out with a shoulder injury.
The returning full-back sent Michael Stephenson in at the right corner with almost the first play, while Davis converted from the touchline.
It was James's half-back partner Scott Bemand who created the next, carrying the ball three times before winning a penalty just short of the Sale line.
Bath opted for the scrum and Davis duly put Matt Carraro over at the posts before adding the extras to put Bath 14-0 up.
And the hosts were quick to extend their lead when skipper Stuart Hooper secured a Bath line-out and the forwards drove hooker Pieter Dixon over for a third.
Davis added another conversion to put Bath into a 21-0 lead over their shell-shocked opponents with only 15 minutes gone.
Sale did rally briefly, number eight Kristian Ormsby driving through some weak tackling from a five-metre scrum to touch down at the other end.
Atkinson added the conversion, but Bath had not finished and on the half-hour mark Stephenson latched onto James' high kick to the right touchline for his second.
Davis made it four out of four from the touchline to send his side into the break 28-7 ahead.
Seven minutes after the restart Stephenson had his third after Scott Bemand broke from a scrum and kicked to the corner, while Davis remained on target to put his side 35-7 in front.
Sale enjoyed the majority of possession in the third quarter after James was taken off, but Bath had, by now, opened up a pretty much unassailable lead.
Guy Mercer was sent to the bin on 65 minutes and as he returned Ben Cohen was yellow carded after illegally stopping a strong run by Johnny Fa'amatuainu.
Bath then had the last word with an unconverted try by Jack Cuthbert.
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|Saturday 31st January|
|14:40||Harlequins vs Bath|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Ospreys|
|15:00||Leicester vs Northampton|
|18:30||Scarlets vs London Irish|
|Sunday 1st February|
|14:00||Wasps vs Cardiff Blues|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Saracens|
|14:30||Newport Gwent D'gons vs Exeter|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Sale Sharks|
|Saturday 7th February|
|14:00||Sale Sharks vs Scarlets|
|14:30||Cardiff Blues vs Leicester|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Harlequins|
|15:00||Bath vs Ospreys|
|15:00||London Irish vs Newcastle|
|15:15||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Sunday 8th February|
|14:30||Newport Gwent D'gons vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Saracens vs Exeter|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com