Planet Rugby

Berne sinks Sharks at death

29th September 2007 16:29

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Matt Banahan Bath

Banahan: Crossed for Bath's second try

A late penalty from Shaun Berne helped Bath to a 21-19 Guinness Premiership victory over Sale at The Rec on Saturday.

Bath survived two drop-goal attempts in the dying seconds from England fly-half Charlie Hodgson to snatch victory after being behind for a large period of the second half.

Hodgson, left out of England's World Cup squad by coach Brian Ashton because he lacked fitness, had steered Sale back into the game when it looked as if they were being overrun in the early stages of the match.

His inch-perfect tactical kicking and astute game management had kept Bath at bay and then helped his side turn the screw in the second period. He also kicked three penalties, a conversion and a drop goal - but it was not quite enough.

Bath hung on in the end, the winning score coming from fly-half Shaun Berne with a short-range penalty.

The west country club, still smarting at leaving Leicester without so much as a losing bonus-point last weekend, brought in Michael Stephenson but fly-half Ryan Davies and skipper Zak Feaunati were missing so Berne moved inside to the number ten spot and also assumed the captaincy.

And the hosts were quickest out of the blocks, winning a penalty for offside and Berne opting to kick for the corner. It was then a regulation catch-and-drive which earned Pieter Dixon a try converted by Berne on five minutes.

Hodgson missed a fairly straightforward kick at goal shortly afterwards and Bath were at their fluent best in conjuring a succession of sweeping backline moves before Matt Banahan stretched out an arm to score in the corner after 15 minutes.

Unfortunately for the wing, he hurt himself in the process of scoring and went off to be replaced by Jack Cuthbert while Berne missed the conversion.

Hodgson then set about hauling Sale back into the game first with a penalty on 18 minutes and then with a 25th-minute drop goal.

And when Oriol Ripol scooted over in 28 minutes, with Hodgson banging over the conversion, Sale led 13-12.

Bath full-back Stephenson was subjected to a barrage of high kicks from the fly-half but the home side recovered their composure. Flank James Scaysbrook almost scored in the corner but they had to be content with another Berne penalty to turn around with a 15-13 lead.

However, Hodgson regained the initiative after the break with two penalties to establish a 19-15 advantage and, although Bath did set up a promising position, Berne spilled the chance.

The Australian made amends with a straightforward penalty after 58 minutes though, and as Sale introduced a rash of replacements, the pressure began the build.

A smart handling move saw Cuthbert bundled into touch but Berne then fluffed a simple penalty chance.

With Andy Higgins running powerfully in the centre, Bath frantically looked for an opening, but too often their handling skills let them down so they were relieved when Berne was awarded his final unmissable chance from in front of the post on 77 minutes.

The scorers:

For Bath:

Tries: Dixon, Banahan

Con: Berne

Pen: Berne 3

For Sale:

Tries: Ripol

Con: Hodgson

Pen: Hodgson 3

Drop: Hodgson

Bath: 15 Michael Stephenson, 14 Matt Banahan, 13 Andy Higgins, 12 Tom Cheeseman, 11 Ian Davey, 10 Shaun Berne (c), 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Daniel Browne, 7 James Scaysbrook, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Peter Short, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Pieter Dixon, 1 David Barnes.

Replacements: 16 Rob Hawkins, 17 Lorne Ward, 18 Martin Purdy, 19 Jonny Faamatuainu, 20 Chris Goodman, 21 Nick Walshe, 22 Jack Cuthbert.

Sale: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Mayor, 13 Chris Bell, 12 Lee Thomas, 11 Oriol Ripol, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Nathan Bonner Evans, 7 David Tait, 6 Chris Jones, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Dean Schofield, 3 Stuart Turner, 2 Neil Briggs, 1 Lionel Faure.

Replacements: 16 Marc Jones, 17 Ben Evans, 18 Chris Day, 19 Magnus Lund, 20 Silio Martens, 21 Steve Hanley, 22 Rhys Jones.

Referee: Andrew Small

Touch judges: Ken Stewart, Andrew Pearce

Assessor: Brian Campsall

Television match official: Bob Ockenden

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