RUGBY: Frustrated Ford reflects on Sharks defeat

Wiltshire Times: Bath's Dave Attwood wins a lineout during tonight's match Bath's Dave Attwood wins a lineout during tonight's match

BATH head coach Mike Ford cut a frustrated figure after his side's 12-11 defeat by Sale Sharks at the Rec.

Sale's match-winner was fly-half Danny Cipriani, who scored four penalties from four attempts to outshine Bath's George Ford, with England's newest cap missing three of his five place-kicks including the crucial conversion of Ross Batty's 75th minute try.

Bath had claims for a penalty try after Sale conceded six penalties in the same sequence of 10 scrums, but the Manchester side came away with a precious victory.

Ford said: "We are hurting inside. I am frustrated beyond belief. But look, we've got to move on and prepare to meet Brive (in the Amlin Challenge Cup quarter final) next week.

"The scrum-fest in the corner, I don't know how many minutes that took out of the game. Fifteen? With seven penalties on the run, the referee has just got to change behaviours. He sent one guy to the bin but I don't know how he didn't go under the sticks.

"He said he couldn't give a penalty try unless they were going backwards but how can the scrum go backwards if they keep collapsing it?"

Ford did not overlook his own side's shortcomings, however, adding: "Having said all that, for us to move forward, we've got to be able to deal with those sort of tactics. If Saracens were playing tonight, you'd think they'd have dealt with it better than we did.

"At half-time I said we just had to lift the tempo a bit, get some speed into our game and work a little harder. In the first half there was a lot of space that we didn't exploit.

"I think if we could have got one point in front on the scoreboard, then it might have forced them to play a bit. They had to just defend a lead. We missed the conversion and a couple of drop goals at the end.

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"But there are different pressures on this team now. People are expecting us to beat Sale at home and stay there as a top three contender. We have to deal with that."

Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond sidestepped Bath's claims for a penalty try, saying: "If you've got that much ball in that situation the onus is on the attacking side to do something with it.

"All we can do is defend as best we can.

"I think Henry (Thomas) was unlucky to get a yellow card - it was just a slip. I don't think the scrums went back. On another day with another referee, you never know - but it didn't happen, did it?"

Cipriani had been ill all week and missed training but insisted on playing, according to Diamond, whose side overcame other troubles even before kick-off.

"We had a 10-hour journey down yesterday on the M6 and then we had our two senior players - Mark Cueto and Dan Braid - cry off in the team run, so we had our backs against the wall," Diamond said.

"As we've proved time and time again, we fought like dogs and got the result."

For all the controversy of the second-half scrums, Sale were in control for much of the match.

Diamond added: "Danny Cipriani and Dwayne Peel are good players. Our defence has been good all year. We managed to control their midfield, who run everything, but they ran into a white wall.

"We managed to get the spoils from either turnovers or penalties and edged our way in front."

MORE BATH RUGBY NEWS IN NEXT WEEK'S WILTSHIRE TIMES

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