BATH failed in their quest to secure the final Aviva Premiership play-off berth following a 27-24 defeat to Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

The top four was always going to be a difficult proposition for Todd Blackadder's men and Leicester's victory over Worcester ultimately rendered this result meaningless.

Sale went into the interval 20-10 ahead thanks to converted tries from Denny Solomona and Ben Curry, while AJ MacGinty added 10 points from the boot.

Max Clark and Rhys Priestland provided the West Countrymen's response, but they began the second half slowly and Josh Charnley extended the Sharks' buffer.

A penalty try and Matt Banahan's touchdown set up a tense finish, but the hosts held on.

Bath have struggled in the second half of the season to play with the same verve they did before Christmas, but their game against arch-rivals Gloucester saw them return to their best.

They opened up the Cherry and Whites with ease, securing a 44-20 victory in the process, and they began with a similar intent in Manchester.

However, the visitors lacked penetration early on and it was Sale who threatened first when Bryn Evans and Josh Beaumont combined down the left-hand side. It should have resulted in a try for Tom Curry but the openside flanker failed to grasp Solomona's pass and the hosts managed to clear their lines.

Steve Diamond's men were soon rewarded for their efforts, though, when Shaun Knight was sin-binned for illegally halting Byron McGuigan and MacGinty kicked the hosts in front.

After their initial promise, the West Countrymen were struggling for possession but, despite being short of a man, they put together the best move of the match.

Excellent hands from the forwards allowed Tom Homer to surge down the right. With the Sharks backtracking, Clark spotted a gap to saunter through and score under the posts as Blackadder's side took a 7-3 advantage.

Back came Sale and, after MacGinty had reduced the arrears from another close range effort off the tee, Solomona displayed his class once more this season, stepping inside and showing outstanding acceleration to cross the whitewash.

Although Priestland kept the scoreboard ticking over for the visitors with a three-pointer, the Manchester outfit were the dominant team and they deserved the try given to them by Ben Curry on the stroke of half-time.

The hosts were then dealt a blow at the start of the second period when captain Beaumont was taken off with a serious-looking head injury, but it did not alter the momentum of the contest.

Despite being without one of their primary ball-carriers, the Sharks continued to control proceedings and deservedly touched down for the third time through Charnley - his second for the club since crossing codes.

Bath duly sent on the cavalry up front and the changes to the props made an immediate impact as the pack earned a penalty try following a dominant scrum.

With Sale, who were without regular tightheads Halani Aulika and Kieran Longbottom, now struggling in the set-piece, the visitors scored again.

George Ford had come on earlier for Priestland and his skills at fly-half forced the opposition defence to halt their surge out of the line and Banahan benefited, fending off the final defender to touch down.

Bath then pressed for the winning try but the Sharks managed to hold on and secure the victory.