Worcester ended their 13-game winless run with 31-23 win against Sale
The Warriors led 21-8 at the break thanks to tries from Carl Kirwan and debutant Francois Hougaard
The Sharks secured a try bonus point after Mike Haley crossed twice but Worcester were always well ahead
Worcester ended a 13-game winless run with an impressive performance to overcome Sale at Sixways on Saturday.
Fly-half Tom Heathcote was crucial to the victory, picking up 16 points as Dean Ryan’s team move up to 10th in the Aviva Premiership. Meanwhile, on his first appearance since announcing his return to Sale Sharks, Danny Cipriani missed a number of chances which could have seen his side pick up more than a solitary try bonus point.
The Warriors were the much the better side in the first half, on top in possession and territory, to open up a 21-8 lead at half-time. Tries from Carl Kirwan and debutant Francois Hougaard combined with 11-points from fly-half Tom Heathcote. Sale though had hope as Dave Seymour’s score kept them in touch.
After Tommy Taylor scored to give Sale some hope early in the second half, Chris Pennell’s smart try extended Warriors’ lead. The Sharks secured a try bonus point after Mike Haley crossed twice but Worcester were always well ahead.
Sam Tuitupou led Sale out on his 100th appearance for the Sharks with the former Warrior receiving a warm round of applause from all of the supporters.
It was the hosts who made the brighter start with Heathcote slotting a penalty after just five minutes to give Worcester an immediate three-point lead, 0-3.
Worcester then extended their lead as they forced over the first try of the game. Some initial good work at the line-out by the Worcester pack got the home side good field position before they eventually worked it out wide to flanker Carl Kirwan who was free to cross unopposed. Heathcote though could not add the extras, meaning the away side led 8-0 with 10 minutes gone.
Ten minutes later, Sale’s first real foray into Worcester territory saw the visitors rewarded with points as Cipriani knocked over a three-pointer from the tee, 8-3.
On his debut, Worcester scrum-half Hougaard was then the beneficiary off the back of a rolling maul as he sniped in from close range for the score. In a swirling wind, Heathcote just snuck his conversion through the posts before landing another three-pointer to extend the hosts lead to 15-points.
The Sharks though hit back before the break with their first try of the game. A line-out on the 22-metre line saw the visitors forwards power their driving maul all the way up to the try live with Seymour dotting over. Cipriani sliced the extras wide as Sale cut the deficit to 10-points. The visitors though did lose fullback Mike Haley just before the break for slowing the ball down at the ruck.
The visitors though did lose fullback Mike Haley just before the break for slowing the ball down at the ruck, which allowed Heathcote to knock over another penalty for the hosts, meaning the Warriors led 21-8 at the break.
Despite being down to 14 men, Sale started the second half in the best possible fashion as hooker Taylor crashed over for the score two minuted after the restart. Cipriani’s poor record though from the tee continued as he got nowhere near the posts, 21-13.
Worcester though responded two minutes later when fullback Pennell finished for the hosts from close range. Heathcote then made it two more with an excellent conversion to give the Warriors a 15-point lead once again.
Heathcote then continued his outstanding kicking record in the game with a clean strike from the tee, 31-13.
Despite being outclassed for the majority of the game, Sale got their third try. It came through Haley – fresh from the sin bin – crossing near the touchline.
Cipriani missed the extras, but they were given a real chance to mount a comeback as Worcester prop Nick Schonert was given a yellow card for a no arms tackle. Haley then scored his second try of the day, but Cipriani’s wayward kicking again left Sale deflated. The last minute touchdown meant one bonus point for the visitors, but nothing else.
Worcester: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Ryan Mills, 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 Tom Heathcote, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 GJ van Velze (c), 7 Carl Kirwan, 6 Dewald Potgieter, 5 Darren Barry, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Na’ama Leleimalefaga, 18 James Johnston, 19 Dan Sanderson, 20 Phil Dowson , 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Andy Symons
Sale: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Tom Arscott, 13 Sam James, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Nev Edwards, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Josh Beaumont (c), 7 David Seymour, 6 Cameron Neild, 5 Jonathan Mills, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Vadim Cobilas, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Ross Harrison
Replacements: 16 Neil Briggs, 17 Eifion Lewis Roberts, 18 Brian Mujati, 19 Magnus Lund, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Joe Ford, 23 Mark Jennings
Date: Saturday, February 20
Kick-off: 15:00 GMT
Referee: Gregory Garner
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell, Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Grashoff / David Rose