Bath banish Twickenham demons to reach Gallagher Premiership final

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Bath banish Twickenham demons to reach Gallagher Premiership final

Bath Rugby will take on Sale Sharks in the 2023-24 Gallagher Premiership final thanks to a 31-23 semi-final triumph over Sale Sharks.

Bath Rugby will compete in the Gallagher Premiership final for the first time in nine years thanks to an enthralling 31-23 victory over the Sale Sharks in Saturday’s semi-final at the Recreation Ground.

Yet to win the coveted title since the establishment of the professional division in 1996, Johann Van Graan‘s men held their nerve in front of a raucous atmosphere to set up a tantalising encounter with Northampton Saints on June 8.

Twice Bath dove over in the opening half through Ted Hill and Beno Obano, and twice Sale responded in kind through Ben Curry and Tommy Taylor, although the boot of Finn Russell propelled Van Graan’s side into a narrow three-point lead at the break.

Both George Ford and Russell had let one conversion pass them by in the first half, but the latter made no mistake with a 45th-minute penalty to draw Sale level, but there was arguably a bigger cheer for the introduction of Tom Curry just a couple of moments later.

The Sharks’ joy briefly dissipated when Russell kicked Bath back ahead, but the tide turned within a couple of minutes, as Joe Carpenter‘s pinpoint kick was on the money for Tom O’Flaherty to latch onto in the 51st minute, before Ford again failed to convert.

Niall Annett powers over for pivotal try

Despite proving near-faultless from the tee, it was Russell’s lackadaisical pass that sparked the pivotal Sale attack as the Sharks took the lead for the first time on the afternoon, although the Scotsman made amends with a 65th-minute penalty to restore the hosts’ lead.

The 31-year-old then sought to put Bath out of sight with his trusty boot – firstly from an ambitious drop goal and then a 72nd-minute penalty – although neither found the mark, leaving Sale still with just a one-point deficit to make up.

However, after Bath found themselves on the right end of a dead-ball decision close to the try-line in the 73rd minute, the hosts came out on top in an almighty maul, where Niall Annett forced his way over the line to spark Recreation Ground pandemonium.

Ford made no mistake with the extras on this occasion, and Van Graan’s side comfortably repelled Sale’s futile late efforts to advance to the showpiece for the first time since the 2014-15 term, when they finished as runners-up to Saracens.

Prior to the formation of the Gallagher Premiership, Bath were crowned first-tier champions six times between 1989 to 1996, and the chance to restore former glories now awaits on the Twickenham turf.

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