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RUGBY: Bath 31 Sale 10
5:51pm Saturday 29th September 2012 in Sport
OLLY Barkley ended his Bath career on a winning note as struggling Sale slumped to their fifth successive Aviva Premiership defeat of the season.
England international Barkley, who joins French club Racing Metro next week, kicked 16 points, including the conversions of prop David Wilson's try and a late penalty try during a mistake-riddled Recreation Ground clash.
Bath flanker Ben Skirving also scored, and although Sale delivered a second-half Johnny Leota try converted by Nick Macleod, who slotted an early penalty, the Sharks remain in 12th and last place with just one point.
They dispensed with the services of their forwards coach Steve Scott last weekend two days after a home defeat against newly-promoted London Welsh, and Sharks chief executive Steve Diamond has temporarily taken on that role in support of rugby director Bryan Redpath.
But although Sale competed aggressively at the breakdown - and they looked a far more fluent attacking force after Danny Cipriani appeared as a second-half substitute - there was nothing to seriously suggest an immediate upturn in fortunes.
The current campaign already represents their worst start to a Premiership season during its 15-year existence, but life is not about too get any easier, with Leicester awaiting them next Friday night.
Redpath responded to his team's dismal run by making six changes, which included Macleod replacing former England fly-half Cipriani, but they also arrived in the west country without injured internationals Richie Gray and Dwayne Peel.
Barkley led Bath out, and it took him just 12 minutes to make an impression when he kicked two penalties in quick succession after his opposite number Macleod missed an earlier long-range chance.
Sale offered plenty of endeavour and effort, but Bath looked more dangerous in attack, and they dominated territory despite Macleod cutting Sale's deficit to three points.
Barkley, the third highest points scorer in Premiership history behind Charlie Hodgson and Andy Goode, booted Bath 12-3 ahead through two further penalties as Sale struggled to secure meaningful possession.
And the visitors' cause was not helped six minutes before the break when wing Tom Brady received a yellow card following a dangerous challenge on Bath flanker Skirving.
Skirving, tipped over in mid-air by Brady from a restart, was uninjured, but Sale could now only look to end the opening period without suffering further damage on the scoreboard.
Macleod missed a second penalty chance from three attempts as the interval approached, and although Bath trooped off 12-3 ahead they would have gained little satisfaction from a disjointed, error-strewn opening period.
It took them just eight minutes of the second period, though, to score the game's first try, and it was Wilson who injected much-needed ambition.
His initial surge took him inside Sale's 22, and when the visitors ran out of defensive numbers it was Wilson who crashed over from close range, touching the ball down down one-handed.
Barkley added the conversion, but Sale hit back after 59 minutes when concerted and patient work through the phases ended in Leota collecting a try that Macleod improved.
Redpath sent Cipriani on for the final 15 minutes, and his first contribution was a touch-finder that took Sale back into Bath's 22.
There was far more urgency about the visitors than at any other time in the game, and Cipriani's clever chip into space almost produced a try as Bath found themselves under sustained pressure.
Had Sale possessed more attacking composure, then Bath might have been in serious trouble, but they stormed back upfield and their forwards rumbled over, with Skirving the beneficiary.
Skirving's try sealed the deal for Bath, yet even at this early stage of the Premiership season, they look ill-equipped to finish higher than mid-table.
And to complete a miserable afternoon for Sale, they ended the game with 14 men when their Wales international number eight Andy Powell was sin-binned for a high tackle and Bath capitalised by claiming a penalty try when Sale pulled down a scrum on their line.
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