Bath director of rugby Stuart Hooper praised the efforts of Ben Spencer after the scrum-half scored two tries in their outstanding 37-22 victory over Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium.

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Spencer was typically predatory but also did the basics superbly, controlling the game well and relieving the pressure with some excellent clearances.

That, allied with the work of the pack, laid the platform from which they were able to claim an important win and move up to third in the Premiership table.

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Hooper said: “When we were looking, we wanted to recruit in the scrum-half position and the way we go through our recruitment process is pretty diligent around how we want to advance the game.

“It’s not just about the name on the back of the shirt, it’s about the attributes they bring to the game and Ben’s brought what we thought.

“He leads the boys around the field, he demands standards and then he’s got a game which is the nuts and bolts of scrum-half play. It’s world-class, genuinely world-class.

“He’s definitely demonstrated what he can do, which is dictating the tempo of the game and then nailing the basics.”

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Just two points separates second from fifth in the table following the results this weekend, but Bath are arguably the team with the momentum.

They have been superb since the restart, suffering just one defeat, and Hooper praised the attitude of the players.

“Pre-lockdown and during lockdown they were amazing, they worked incredibly hard and it blew us away,” Hooper added. “They’re enjoying it at the moment.

“We talked about the situation we’re in now. Everything’s different, there are so many rules, regulations and restrictions outside of the pitch so when they get on there, that’s their moment of freedom, that’s their chance to go and play.”

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Bath are now one point ahead of Sale in the table with two matches remaining and Sharks boss Steve Diamond was frustrated with his side’s efforts on Sunday.

“We didn’t play well and they played pretty well,” he said. “They stuck to their guns and sorted us out in the lineout; we had no answer to that.

“If you can’t get any set-piece ball and you get two yellow cards, and you give double figure penalties away, maybe we’ve reached our level. Maybe we’re not good enough to be in the top-four and that’s what I said to the lads.

“Take nothing away from Bath, they were good, very good, but equally we created a lot of chances. It wasn’t as though there was no invention but, if you give two yellow cards away and you can’t win a lineout, we’re doing well to score 22 points.”

Diamond also confirmed that World Cup winner Lood De Jager – a pivotal presence in their lineout – will require surgery on his injured shoulder and will potentially be out for six months.

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