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George Ford impresses as Sale win at Bristol

By PA
George Ford of Sale Sharks looks on during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Bristol Bears and Sale Sharks at Ashton Gate on November 11, 2023 in Bristol, England. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images for Sale Sharks)

England fly-half George Ford was the difference as the playmaking maestro inspired Sale to a 27-13 win over Bristol at Ashton Gate.

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Sharks secured their fourth win of the season, coming away with a bonus point after tries from Arron Reed, Sam James, Rob du Preez and Joe Carpenter plus seven points from the boot of Ford.

Bears crossed early in the contest through Josh Cauldfield, with Callum Sheedy adding two penalties and the conversion for seven points but could not muster a late score to earn a consolation losing bonus point against the frugal Sale defence.

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Bristol’s scrum, boosted by the return of Kyle Sinckler, got the hosts off to a positive start, pushing Sale backwards on their own put-in to allow Sheedy a shot at goal from 50 metres but the Welshman’s effort fell just short.

However, just a couple minutes later Sale flanker Ben Curry was yellow-carded for taking Rich Lane out in the air and the Bears quickly made the most of the one-man advantage.

Lane was heavily involved again, using his dancing feet before backing himself on the outside to bounce out of an attempted tackle from Du Preez before offloading off the turf to Virimi Vakatawa, who calmly sucked in the final defender before feeding Caulfield to canter in. Sheedy converted.

Sale responded with patient play, drawing a penalty advantage with their close-range catch and drive game from a 5m lineout to allow the backline to take a risk.

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That brought reward with Tom Roebuck arcing a wide pass into the arms of Reed who had the pace to touch down in the left-hand corner despite the best efforts of Lane to drive him into touch.

Ford missed the touchline conversion but made amends a couple of minutes later as the hero of Marseille for England repeated his World Cup heroics by dropping a goal from the edge of the 22 to hand the visitors the lead, 8-7 at the break.

After points were at a premium in the first half, they came quickly after the break, with Sheedy slotting a penalty only for Sale to strike back with a try off the training ground, with Ford perfectly picking out James with a miss-pass to put the full-back through a gap and under the posts.

Moments later, Sale skipper Du Preez picked off a pass from Benhard Janse van Rensburg and ran it home from 65m out with a finger being laid on him. Ford was unable to add the extras.

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But the England star was quickly back to his playmaking best as he slipped an inside pass to Cobus Wiese who galloped through the Bristol line before linking up with Carpenter to finish with a dive and ensure the points for Sale.

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