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Premiership roundup: Bath and Sale keep playoff hopes alive with victories
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Premiership roundup: Bath and Sale keep playoff hopes alive with victories

Bath moved a step closer to the Premiership playoffs with a 28-17 win over rock-bottom Newcastle at Kingston Park. The away side secured the attacking bonus point in a rampant first half – Thomas du Toit, Ben Spencer, Joe Cokanasiga and Matt Gallagher all scoring tries – with only Jamie Blamire’s double providing respite for their opponents.

Finn Russell, returning after a groin injury, was imperious from the tee, nailing all four conversions to give his side a commanding 28-10 lead at half-time. Sam Stuart’s try after the interval was reward for a spirited display from the home side, who stopped Bath from adding any points to their first-half haul – but there was no comeback for the crowd to savour, with Bath moving second.

It took less than five minutes for the visitors to open the scoring, Du Toit scooping up a loose ball and dotting down for his 11th try of the season. The onslaught continued, with the Falcons unable to stop the yellow tide early on. Spencer was next to score, taking the ball from a ruck in the 13th minute and weaving his way through the posts, also surviving a TMO review.

The hosts should have cut the deficit seven minutes later when Cameron Hutchison broke through the line to force a two-on-two situation, but his offload to Guy Pepper was sloppy and the chance was gone. They were punished in the 28th minute when Cokanasiga went over on the right wing – Russell nailed the tricky conversion to extend the lead to 21-0.

Blamire finally provided some cheer for the home faithful nine minutes before the break, but Bath’s bonus point was secured when Gallagher finished off a superb team move, before Blamire doubled his tally from another maul with the last play of the half to give the Falcons some hope going into the interval.

After a lengthy period of pressure, the hosts finally grabbed their third try through Stuart. Brett Connon added the extras for the first time on the night to reduce the arrears to 11 points. But Newcastle’s lack of ruthlessness and their habit of having to chase the game cost them in the end.

Gus Warr fights for the line to score Sale’s opening try against LeicesterView image in fullscreen

Sale boosted their chances of a playoff place with a bonus-point 31-22 win against Leicester. Gus Warr, Tommy Taylor, Sam James and Tom O’Flaherty crossed for tries as last season’s runners-up made it four straight bonus-point victories.

Leicester held an early lead through a rare Dan Cole try and also crossed through Matt Scott in the first half, while England’s George Martin added a third with just four minutes remaining.

Sharks, who started the weekend in sixth, travel to Saracens on the final day of the league season next weekend, almost certainly needing another win to stand a chance of a top-four finish. They move third with teams around them still to play over the weekend.

Tigers roared into an early lead as Cole crashed over the try line to make it 5-0 but Sale turned it around in the 10th minute as Warr sniped across the line from a ruck five metres out.

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Leicester had Ollie Hassell-Collins in the sin-bin a minute later following a TMO review before the referee brandished a yellow card after a high tackle on Manu Tuilagi. Sale stretched their lead to nine in the 14th minute as Taylor strode across the try line on his 150th Sharks appearance after a well-orchestrated lineout, before George Ford added the conversion.

An opportunistic interception from Scott on halfway allowed him to run in for Leicester’s second try and Handré Pollard’s conversion made the score 14-12 in the 18th minute. In the 35th minute the long-serving James, in his last home game before leaving his boyhood club this summer, got Sale’s third try following superb quick hands by Sharks down the blindside before Ford added the conversion to make it 21-12.

A penalty from Tigers’ Jamie Shillcock on the stroke of half-time from just inside Sale’s half made it 21-15 but Sale secured their try bonus point five minutes after the break following sustained attacking pressure as O’Flaherty pounced on a James grubber kick. Sale controlled the second-half proceedings, stretching their lead to 16 points just before the hour with a Ford penalty.

Charlie Clare received Leicester’s second yellow as panic took hold of the Tigers defence in the 67th minute after an impressive length-of-the-field counter led by Tuilagi in his final action at the AJ Bell Stadium for Sale. Martin scored Leicester’s third try in the 75th minute and Shillcock converted from a tight angle, a consolation for the visitors as Sale saw the game out.

The impressive victory sets up a final-game showdown between Sale and Saracens for a Premiership playoff spot.

Source: theguardian.com