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Page last updated at 13:25 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 14:25 UK

Bath 36-14 Sale Sharks

Bath (22) 36
Tries: Claassens, Lipman, Grewcock, Higgins, Banahan Cons: Barkley 4 Pen: Barkley

Sale (14) 14
Try: Mayor Pens: Hodgson, McAlister Drops: Hodgson

Michael Lipman beats off the tackle of Richard Wigglesworth
Michael Lipman's first-half try helped secure victory for Bath

Bath demolished lacklustre Sale with five tries to make the European Challenge Cup final.

Inspired by the excellent Olly Barkley, Bath played some stunning rugby to sweep past the understrength Sharks.

Tries from Michael Claassens, Michael Lipman, Danny Grewcock, Andrew Higgins and Matt Banahan proved more than enough for the home side.

Sale struggled to get going on a disappointing afternoon, with their try coming from wing Chris Mayor.

The Sharks, missing their first-choice back row of Jason White, Magnus Lund and Sebastien Chabal, took the opening points of the game through a Charlie Hodgson drop-goal but it was Bath who dominated the early exchanges.

It took Bath only three minutes to score the first try of the game with Claassens crossing to give the home side the early advantage.


The South African scrum-half charged down a loose kick from Hodgson and collected to cross unchallenged.

Barkley added the extras and he landed a penalty soon after, with Bath playing the more open, expansive game.

Flanker Lipman spotted a gap in the Sale defence and darted through from close range to dive over for their second converted try.

But Sale soon showed their class and Hodgson took advantage of a lack of concentration in the Bath ranks to send a cross-field penalty into the arms of Mayor who collected to touch down for 17-11.

Sale centre Luke McAlister then sent over a monster kick to reduce the deficit to just three points.

But Bath soon got a foothold back in the game with Grewcock the next to cross.

Claassens created it with a fine break, with Butch James collecting the ball in contact before off-loading to Grewcock who smashed through for Bath's third try.

Barkley converted to send his side into the break with a 10- point lead.

The start to the second half was a cagey affair with both sides knowing that the next try would determine the outcome.

And it was Bath who crossed first, with Higgins showing blistering pace to touch down following Lipman's kick through after Hodgson had fumbled.

Barkley added the conversion to give his side an unassailable 17-point lead which, despite late Sale pressure, they held until the final whistle.

Bath head coach Steve Meehan:
"That was right on the money. We were aware of their threat but defensively we shut them right down and we took the opportunities that came to us in attack.

"It was a very good performance from last July we knew exactly what we wanted to do this season but when you see it happen the rewards are there for everyone, including the supporters.

"In the most beautiful surroundings of any rugby park in the world, it was an absolute joy.

"We are playing the sort of rugby that attracts attention but we can improve and we will need to."

Sale director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre
"You have to accept it when a team are better than you.

"We made a lot of mistakes and there was poor handling but I am not crying or complaining.

"I am crossing my fingers that (Jason White and Sebastien Chabal) will be fit for next week.

"I am confident I can raise the players but we need to be focused."

Bath: Abendanon; Higgins, Crockett, Barkley, Banahan; James, Claassens; Barnes, Mears, Stevens, Borthwick (capt), Grewcock, Faamatuainu, Lipman, Goodman.
Replacements: Dixon, Bell, Short, Feaunati, Baxter, Berne, Cheeseman.

Sale: Foden; Mayor, Bell, McAlister, Ripol; Hodgson, Wigglesworth; Sheridan, Bruno, Turner, I Fernandez Lobbe (capt), Schofield, Cox, Jones, JM Fernandez Lobbe.
Replacements: Briggs, Roberts, Faure, Cockbain, Hills, Cliff, Laharrague.

see also
Sale 53-10 Newcastle
20 Apr 08 |  English
Worcester 20-23 Bath
19 Apr 08 |  English

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