Bristol Bears end Premiership losing streak as Luke Morahan brace stuns Sale
Sale Sharks are still waiting on their first away win of the Premiership season after Alex Sanderson's side succumbed 32-15 in their trip to Bristol Bears on Friday.
The two teams opened Week 13 of the league campaign with a thrilling first half comprising no fewer than five tries, two of which were finished by makeshift full-back Luke Morahan.
Wales fly-half Callum Sheedy contributed an important 12 points from the tee as the Bears moved within three of their Premiership guests, with Bristol winning in the absence of stars like Charles Piutau and Steven Luatua.
Sale have become better-known for their steadfast defence since Sanderson took charge 12 months ago, yet Ewan Ashman required f fewer than three minutes to cruise over for the game's opening try.
A wonderful interchange between Rob du Preez and Marland Yarde ended with the latter putting Scotland hooker Ashman in down the right for a third try in his last five Premiership appearances.
AJ MacGinty—who will leave Sale for Bristol at the end of this season—failed to add the conversion, a miss that hurt all the more after the returning Tom Curry was sin binned following a string of penalties minutes later.
It was clear to see just how the British and Irish Lions back-rower was missed as the hosts promptly hit back through Will Capon, who was only in the XV after first-choice hooker Harry Thacker failed a late fitness test (shoulder).
The Bears rumbled over off the back of a short-range line-out for their first score, but the second was a lot more like the Bristol fans have grown to love as Sam Bedlow flung the ball wide for Morahan to score.
Sale tied matters up again in a frantic first half-hour, however, with full-back Luke James assisting on his 100th appearance for the club with a beautiful offload for Du Preez to score.
Morahan's second of the evening moved Bristol back into the lead on the back of a Ioan Lloyd break through midfield, although there was more than a hint that Semi Radradra's decisive pass may have been forward:
Referee Wayne Barnes—who was taking charge of his 250th Premiership match—nor the television match official spotted the potential error before Bristol headed in at the break 19-15 ahead.
The conversion to cap Morahan's brace also made Sheedy the first Bristol player to score 500 Premiership points.
If Friday's first half brought the entertainment factor, its second period turned into a chess match of game management as two Sheedy penalties opened up a 10-point cushion for the hosts.
Just like his full-back counterpart, James came close to completing a brace off the back of a fast-paced kick-and-chase, only for Barnes to stop the celebrations after the replay proved the slightest of forward touches in the build-up.
Fortune continued to favour the hosts after the elder James brother, Sam, was denied a similarly sensational score for another accidental knock-on with 10 minutes remaining at Ashton Gate.
The best of the action was saved for last, too, as Lloyd stepped in off the right wing and flashed a superb offload infield for substitute scrum-half Andy Uren to go in under the posts for the bonus-point score.
Victory lifts Bristol one place up to 11th in the standings, with Pat Lam's side not due back in Premiership action until they host Newcastle Falcons on February 5.
That's because the Bears are due to face Stade Francais (Jan. 15) and the Scarlets (Jan. 22) in the Champions Cup before they enjoy a bye week in the league.
Sale also face back-to-back Champions Cup fixtures against Clermont Auvergne (Jan. 16) and the Ospreys (Jan. 23) before they're due to host Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers on January 30.
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