Premiership: Johann van Graan urges Bath players to continue fighting despite agonising defeat to Sale
Despite suffering a last-gasp 30-27 defeat to Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday night, Bath head coach Johann van Graan has urged his players to continue fighting.
The West Country outfit launched a stunning fightback from 22-3 down to take a 27-25 lead with their captain Ben Spencer leading the way with a 17-point contribution, despite losing Max Ojomoh and Cameron Redpath to yellow cards.
Sale did not surrender, however, and sealed their victory in dramatic fashion when Arron Reed scored the match-winning try in the left-hand corner in the 80th minute.
“That’s a difficult one to take, specifically the way we fought back, got ourselves ahead and then defended so well with 13 men,” said Van Graan, whose side remain in second-last place in the Premiership standings.
“Across the 80, we have to be better. We conceded a yellow card within a minute and they scored a try because you don’t have your blind winger to cover that – minus those five points and you win the game.
“The positive for me is the way we stayed in the fight, we had to stop a maul and defend with five backs and that’s signs of growth, but I would have loved to win that one.
“We are fighting and that’s all I’m looking for. We are not going to be perfect in the first season but you put yourselves in the position, tonight, to beat Sale second in the league away.
“This competition is definitely not over for us this season. There’s a lot of rugby left this season.”
The home side raced into a comfortable lead courtesy of first-half tries from Joe Carpenter, Sam Dugdale, Tom Roebuck and Tommy Taylor, although a Niall Annett try on the stroke of half-time meant Bath were trailing 22-8 at the interval.
A five-pointer from Jonathan Joseph saw the visitors narrowing the gap, and despite Ojomoh and Redpath’s yellow cards, Spencer’s conversion of his own try resulted in them taking the lead before Reed’s late score broke their hearts.
The Sharks’ win means they consolidate second position on the table and director of rugby Alex Sanderson feels their late triumph could prove vital as the season progresses.
“When we look back on the season, if we are lucky enough to earn ourselves a home semi-final, it’s on nights like tonight that you do that, you earn it,” he said. “It’s quite significant I feel.
“It’s a decent sign of where we are going – hopefully if we keep them together this group can do special things, not just this year but for years.
Forced to dig in
“I knew we’d be digging in that second half, really digging in and that’s all I asked of them. I didn’t ask them to win, just dig in and they did.
“You see how much it matters to them on the sideline, me included, over exuberant celebrations but it matters, it really matters them fighting for each other.”
READ MORE: Premiership: Dramatic last-minute try sees Sale Sharks strengthen grip on second