Closing Down Sale?
Roko: point to prove
By P G Tips
May 2 2017
Bath will want to to close down Sale in Saturday’s final Premiership match at the AJ Bell Stadium. In particular they will be wary of the two former League players on the wings – Josh Charnley and Denny Solomona. Solomona’s try scoring exploits, ten in thirteen matches, had many pundits purring and backing him as a “bolter” for the Lions tour. He may be disappointed having to settle for the consolation prize of a place on England’s tour of Argentina. That is a more realistic selection, but his season has been a remarkable one, somewhat overshadowing teammate Charnley whose signing was also greeted with excitement and expectation at the beginning of the season. Traditionally a tough prospect at home in Salford, Sale have endured a mixed run of results since Christmas. The delight of victory against Wasps must be balanced by New Year’s Day defeat to Bristol and a hammering by Northampton Saints in early March. In all they have been beaten at home five times in the Premiership and on Saturday will hope to put those woes behind them, finishing on a high.
Despite languishing in 10th place, Sale boast a number of fine players. At scrum half they have the choice of experience in veteran internationals Phillips or Stringer, up front battle -hardened pros such a Webber, Lewis-Roberts, Lund and Seymour. To these can be added four promising youngsters chosen for England’s Argentina trip: Solomona, direct running centre James and the Curry twins on the flanks. Although 5 places below Bath in the table, the Mancunians have the better try scoring form this season, posting 52 compared to Bath’s 49 –gaining one more try bonus point. They carry evident threats, not just wide on the wings, but up the middle through Phillips, Beaumont & Neild or through the thrusts of James.
Bath may want to close down Sale, but not their season. A bonus point win would give them a chance of a Top 4 place should Leicester fail at Sixways, and that is Bath’s dilemma. What happens elsewhere is a distraction and chasing the try bonus too early or loosely could open them up to counter attack from Solomona or the dashing Haley. They may have racked up six tries at home in the Gloucester derby last Sunday, but to do so they had to grind out the hard work of aggressive press defence first. Even after stretching their lead with four lovely tries they were vulnerable and allowed Gloucester in for late consolations. Such lack of concentration cannot be tolerated away from home, where Bath’s record since October has been awful. All the other West Country teams have taken Premiership wins from the AJ Bell- as a point of pride Bath will not want to be the first to fail there.
With recent returns from injury, the selection options are looking almost luxurious compared to most of the season. I expect that changes will be few though as coaches seek to use the momentum of Sunday’s success. However, two players with points to prove may get a chance, Rokodoguni to show why he should be an England selection ahead of Solomona and Zach Mercer, similarly disappointed to lose out in Argentina to the Currys.
If Bath reproduce the running lines of Clark, Faletau and Fruean and make the same impact from the bench as last week, they will have enough to win, but must guard against the carelessness which has blighted so many away games. A bonus point win would be just that and should be discounted until Sale are completely closed down. Only then can they cut loose and hope to hear the cash tills ringing.
Catt, Batty, Knight, Attwood, Stooke, Garvey, Louw, Faletau. Fotuali’i, Priestland. Rokodoguni, Tapuai, Clark, Watson. Homer
Replacements: Obano, Brooker, Palma –Newport, Charteris, Z Mercer. Cook, Ford, Fruean.
Harrison, Webber, Longbottom, Evans, Beaumont (capt), Neild, T Curry, Pearce. Phillips, McGinty. Charnley, Addison, James, Solomona. Haley.
Replacements: Briggs, Flynn Lewis-Roberts, Ostrikov, Lund, Stringer, Mugford, McGuigan
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2017:05:08:07:21:48 by CoochieCoo.