Sale Sharks missed out on the Premiership final after losing 31-23 at Bath on Saturday in a thrilling encounter at the Recreation Ground on Saturday.

Sale, eighth in the table two months ago, gave it everything and wiped out a sizeable deficit before two second-half Finn Russell penalties and a late Niall Annett try saw Bath home.

Flanker Ted Hill and prop Beno Obano also crossed for Bath, while Sale scored three tries - through skipper Ben Curry, hooker Tommy Taylor and wing Tom O’Flaherty - with George Ford adding two penalties and a conversion.

But there was no fairytale return to action for Sale and England flanker Tom Curry, who featured for 33 minutes off the bench on his first appearance since the World Cup after undergoing major hip surgery.

Sale rugby director Alex Sanderson said: “It feels about our inability to control and dominate the middle third of the pitch in that second half through ill-discipline around the ruck and losing aerial contests.

“It allowed them back into our 22 repeatedly and you can only soak up that pressure for so long until you concede points, which we did.

“We were victims of our own demise but all credit to Bath. They were consistent throughout the game.

“It felt at times like we had the winning of the game. These big games turn on very small things.”

Scotland fly-half Russell was the architect of Bath’s victory, kicking 16 points, and Bath director of rugby, Johann Van Graan said: “Days like this you need your number 10 to shine.

“How good was George Ford today? How good was Finn Russell?

“We are blessed in the Premiership with incredible 10s. Today, our 10 came through.

“I feel incredibly grateful. It is a big day for the club.

“To have gone through what we have gone through in the last 23 months, it has been an incredible journey.

“At the final whistle, it was a lot of joy for a lot of people. To hear that noise, it makes you grateful and humble for the opportunity to coach.

“We’ve gone from hoping as a club to believing we can win. We came through an incredible amount of pressure today.

“We were 18-5 up - credit to Sale, what a good side, they came back to 18-all - and then it was ‘can we handle the pressure?’ And yes, we did.

“I am proud of the way we closed the game down. Rugby is in a good place and it is great to be involved.”

Bath have never won the Premiership, losing in the 2004 and 2015 finals to Wasps and Saracens, but they will now head back to English rugby headquarters.

“The vision I sold to everyone on July 11, 2022 (when Van Graan took charge) is respect our past but we start from zero. And that’s what we did as a group,” he added.

“We are here to build our own legacy and you train for moments like this.”