Bristol put on an impressive display at times, showing enthusiasm and skill in their offloading game and displaying solidity in the set piece. However, it was Sale who proved to be more clinical when it mattered most. The presence of England fly-half George Ford, with his intelligence and class, gave Sale an advantage that they capitalized on. Ford's ability to slot drop-goals from long distances showcased his silky skills in attack, something that Sale had been actively looking to develop.
The game began with a setback for Bristol as Rich Lane, their full-back, was taken out in the air by Ben Curry after Ford launched a towering spiral bomb into their territory. Curry was subsequently sent to the sin-bin, giving Sale an early advantage. Bristol's Gabriel Ibitoye, who was a late inclusion in the team, responded with a pinpoint 50-22 kick, allowing Josh Caulfield to score following a sympathetic offload from Lane. Callum Sheedy converted the try, but Bristol could only secure a single score during Curry's absence.
Sale soon started building pressure in Bristol's 22 and Arron Reed capitalized on the opportunity, crossing the line for a try. Ford missed the conversion but made up for it with a calmly taken drop-goal, putting Sale in the lead. A penalty against Kyle Sinckler gave Sale a one-point advantage going into halftime.
Bristol started the second half with a penalty from Sheedy, briefly regaining the lead. However, Reed again posed a threat with a quick run, and Ford's excellent long pass found Sam James in space, resulting in another try for Sale. Sale demonstrated their ability to convert territory into points and extended their lead to five.
Luke Cowan-Dickie, making his Sharks debut after recovering from an injury, contributed to the team's energy and impact. Sale increased their advantage when their captain, Rob du Preez, intercepted a pass and ran unchallenged to score.
Although Bristol fought hard to narrow the gap on the scoreboard, Sale's high-energy defense proved too strong. Sale ultimately denied Bristol a losing bonus point, a feat that pleased Sale's director of rugby, Alex Sanderson, more than their attacking bonus. Bristol's director of rugby, Pat Lam, acknowledged Ford's role in Sale's success but also recognized the strength of the entire team.
Bristol will face their next challenge against in-form Bath, knowing that they are not the first team to succumb to Sale's power and precision.