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Agonising finish for Faf de Klerk as Sale settle for draw at Bath

By PA
(Photo by PA)

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World Cup-winning scrum-half Faf de Klerk was inches away from snatching Gallagher Premiership victory for Sale as they drew 24-24 with Bath at the Recreation Ground. The visitors had mounted a storming second-half comeback after trailing 21-7 at half-time to the league’s bottom club and led 24-21 until Danny Cipriani kicked Bath level with three minutes to play. De Klerk had the chance to win it in the 83rd minute but his kick was narrowly wide.

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Bath had a let-off almost straight from the kick-off when Rob du Preez’s penalty struck the nearside post. Within five minutes the home side found themselves a man down after number eight Nathan Hughes was sin-binned for a high tackle on left-wing Arron Reed.

Sale wasted no time in taking advantage as the pack drove almost to the Bath line from a line-out and quick passing allowed full-back Luke James to touch down under the posts. Rob Du Preez kicked the conversion with nine minutes gone.

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The visitors also threatened from deep, but Bath’s fortunes improved when Hughes returned to add ballast to the scrum and go-forward in the loose. The former England number eight thought he had scored at the other end after Will Muir, Ben Spencer and hooker Jacques du Toit opened up the Sale defence.

The officials ruled otherwise, but the disappointment was quickly forgotten as Hughes picked up from a scrum and Sam Underhill burrowed through to the line, with Cipriani converting. There was no stopping the Hughes-Underhill combination now, and a second try followed for the England flanker, also converted by Cipriani, as Bath took a 14-7 lead after 26 minutes.

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With Cipriani showing his best form so far for Bath, opportunities were opening up from all over the field and Sale flanker Ben Curry was shown a yellow card for his team’s persistent infringement in and around their 22. Bath’s third try came just before the break as Sale buckled under the pressure, Cipriani combining with Jonathan Joseph before putting Tom de Glanville over for the try. The fly-half’s conversion made it 21-7 at half-time.

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Sale came out for the second half a transformed side, and Bath saw nothing of the ball in the third quarter. Relentless chasing of a long, rolling kick forced a five-metre scrum from which lock Jean-Luc du Preez claimed an unconverted try in the 52nd minute.

Dan du Preez was quickly on to an overthrown ball at a Bath line-out on the hour and there was no defender on the blindside to stop centre Rohan Janse Van Rensburg crossing for another try. When hooker Ewan Ashman finished off an unstoppable Sale forward drive and De Klerk added the conversion to put his side 21-24 ahead, it seemed Bath had blown it again.

But a desperate surge out of defence forced a penalty which Cipriani gratefully knocked over to draw his side level. There was still time for Sale to battle their way upfield to set up De Klerk’s final penalty opportunity but he could not make the most of it.

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