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Bath can focus on Premiership

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'I was watching him closely and thinking, 'When do we bring him off?''

By PA Authors
By Online Editors

Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper believes having a “single focus” will prove a big boost for his team’s Gallagher Premiership aspirations.

Hooper’s men, whose Heineken Cup hopes are over for the season following a poor run of pool results, edged Sale 16-14 in a thriller at the Recreation Ground on Saturday to register their second victory in as many weekends and move into serious play-off contention.

They will look to make it three wins on the bounce at arch rivals Gloucester next week.

“I thought we found ways to pressure them, kick points and ultimately come away with the four points,” Hooper said. “It sharpens our focus going into Gloucester.

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“Europe was going to be a tough competition for us. It was a realisation of where we are. The Premiership is our single focus (now) and we believe that, on any single day, we can beat anyone in the Premiership but we have to play really well to do that.

“Having a single focus is big for us and we go to Gloucester with that single focus. It is not a turning point (beating Sale) but it is an opportunity for us to push hard in the Premiership.”

Saturday’s victory was secured thanks to three penalties from fly-half Rhys Priestland and the conversion of England centre Jonathan Joseph’s second-half try.

Sharks had to wait until well into the second half before they got their points when hooker Akker Van der Merwe and wing Byron McGuigan crossed for tries converted by fly-half Robert Du Preez.

That made it 14-13 to Sale before the last Priestland penalty nine minutes from time restored Bath’s lead and, with it, the triumph.

Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau emerged unscathed from his first 80 minutes of the season, just in time to mount a challenge for a Six Nations Championship place under new national coach Wayne Pivac.

“He is pleased he has got through it,” Hooper said. “Credit to him for the work he has put in and to our medical team.

“I was watching him closely and thinking, ‘When do we bring him off?’ But he was going really well and had some big moments at the end of the game which you would expect from a player of his quality.”

Sale’s director of rugby Steve Diamond was not as satisfied with the afternoon’s events, and was adamant that referee Craig Maxwell-Keys should have given his side a penalty six minutes from time when, he claimed, Bath’s Tom Dunn made an illegal tackle on England flanker Tom Curry.

Diamond said: “Tom Curry, who is a world-class player, has had a no-arms tackle but I need to have a look at that.

“Those decisions are really crucial. The wins and losses are decided on that one decision.

“With those decisions, you have to be rock sure and I wonder why he did not consult his TMO.”

As for the game, Diamond said: “Fair play to Bath, they had their 16th man out there (the crowd) but well done to them.

“I don’t know where we are going in the league because we have a dominant scrum and South Africa proved in the World Cup final that, if you have a dominant scrum, you win games.

“But ours isn’t getting anything. There is no point in coaching players and getting them to this standard if they are never going to get any ascendancy. That is really disappointing.”

Diamond insisted, however: “We are in a good place, definitely.”

– Press Association

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'I was watching him closely and thinking, 'When do we bring him off?''