'Torpid' is steadily becoming my favourite word.
Even the long-awaited news that stalwart winger and goalkicker extraordinaire Will Addison had signed a new three-year-deal with the club was scant consolation on a miserable Friday evening for Sale Sharks who were downed 30-3 to an impressive Bath side.
Despite a fantastic result the week prior against Leicester Tigers which finally saw the Sale backline come alight to the tune of four tries and 34 points, Paul Deacon's charges could muster nothing against a stoic and for the most part impenetrable Bath defence aside from an early Will Addison penalty.
It would be easy, in the all too familiar gloom of away-game pessimism, to disregard the performance of the opposition and focus solely on Sale's drastic underperformance on Friday. And whilst there is no doubting Sale definitely underperformed in front of the bright lights of the BT Sport cameras (and Eddie Jones' watchful gaze), we must pay credence to a wonderfully opportunistic and aggressive Bath performance who were deserved winners on the night.
30-3 is ultimately not a fair reflection of the game; Sale controlled possession and even territory for the majority of the game, and the latter two of Bath's three tries - touched down by Kahn Fotuali'i and Kane Palma-Newport - were extremely fortuitous occurrences that occurred due to handling mistakes that are usually not punished so drastically (in this case a misplaced James Mitchell pass and a spilt lineout).
But whereas Bath could consider themselves lucky to have been gifted two tries, there was nothing providential about the rest of their performance; George Ford kicked a perfect six-for-six from the tee, midfield duo Matt Banahan and Jonathan Joseph cut Sale to ribbons with ease and most importantly, the Bath line defence definitively smothered what little momentum the Sale ball-handlers could muster. Bath are back to their best, Sale are back to doing what they do best - playing well at the AJ Bell stadium and capitulating worryingly away from it.
In a week when backs coach Paul Deacon (along with defence coach Mike Forshaw) penned a new four-year-deal with the club, Sale's biggest concern coming away from Friday night will once again be an attack (or lack thereof) which can once again be described as that word - torpid.
Despite making nearly double the amount of carries (71-38) and owning 65% of the possession Sale created absolute nothing in the way of incisive attacking play. Tellingly, despite the lopsided figures noted above Bath made 492 metres to the Sharks' 350. Sale showed the ability to retain the ball effectively by racking up a multitude of 15+ phases of play but produced nothing from it. No line breaks, certainly no clean breaks, and most concerning, no attacking shape.
As pleasing as it is to see AJ MacGinty barrel into the line at every opportunity, the Irish-American isn't doing nearly enough to mould the Sale backline into an attacking formation capable of amassing tries. MacGinty is clearly still not back to 100% fitness and questions must be asked of whether his play is suffering too much because of it. If he isn't fit enough to play the role of primary playmaker, he shouldn't be playing - and that's on Dimes for not allowing him sufficient time to recover.
Elsewhere, Will Addison huffed and puffed but he can't do it all on his own. Johnny Leota's impact was mitigated by Bath's superb line speed. Paolo Odogwu looked his usual lively self but because of the relative impotence of his teammates, Bath were able to hone in and deny Odogwu the space he needs to exploit his natural pace and strength. On their returns Sam James and Mike Haley both threw themselves into the game but are evidently still a week or two away from a return to peak form.
With the loss, Sale will now be looking anxiously over their shoulder and will likely drop back down the table to circa 8th or 9th should wins come to Northampton, Exeter and Newcastle this weekend. Attention now turns to a - at this point - probably unwanted European Champions Cup campaign that begins at the Parc y Scarlets next Saturday evening. Hopefully a return to Europe's premier club competition will spark a resurgence in a sputtering offense that has now cost Sale decisively in three of their opening six fixtures this season.
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