Sharks earn Sixways bonus
Bell's late try secures maximum points for visitors at Worcester
Last Updated: 01/02/09 10:52am
Worcester winger Rico Gear releases the ball in contact
Sale Sharks gave their Guinness Premiership title ambitions a boost with a 37-20 victory over Worcester Warriors at Sixways.
Chris Bell's 78th-minute try, the Sharks' fourth, earned the visitors a bonus point and moves them up to third in the table.
Sale's other tries were scored by Chris Jones, Oriol Ripol and Neil Briggs, while fly-half Charlie Hodgson added 17 points with the boot.
Worcester scored a try at either end of the game through Chris Latham and Marcel Garvey but largely failed to find their best form and suffered a major blow when Latham's participation was ended by a neck injury after 16 minutes.
Sale, who lost 19-7 to Worcester at Edgeley Park in November, were without star players Andrew Sheridan, Mark Cueto and Luke McAlister.
Hodgson opened the scoring with a fourth-minute penalty but the hosts hit back immediately, Joe Carlisle putting Latham into a gap and the Australian full-back powering past two defenders for an excellent solo try.
Carlisle added the additional two points but was off-target with a penalty attempt shortly afterwards.
Just past the quarter-of-an-hour mark Latham had to be stretchered off with his neck in a brace after being injured in a maul. He was taken to hospital for scans after temporarily losing feeling in his arms and legs and is believed to have suffered a neck ligament problem.
Soon afterwards the Warriors thought they had scored a second try but Kai Horstmann's effort was ruled out for crossing in the build-up.
Sale got back within one at 7-6 when Hodgson kicked his second penalty, which had been awarded when Horstmann was yellow carded for deliberately killing the ball on the floor.
Sale lost Sebastian Chabal to a shoulder injury but it made little difference as they went on a run of 10 quick points - Hodgson dropping a simple goal and then converting a try from Jones, who drove over from close range.
Horstmann returned from the sin-bin in time to see Carlisle land a 40-metre penalty to reduce Worcester's deficit to 16-10 at the interval.
Carlisle brought his side back within three with another penalty two minutes after the restart.
But a poor kick from Rico Gear surrendered possession to Sale, who took full advantage by building up a period of pressure which culminated in Ripol's try. Hodgson converted to open a 10-point lead with half-an-hour to go.
The Sharks lost Jones to a head injury six minutes later, David Tait coming on as a replacement.
Sale put the game beyond Worcester's reach when Carlisle's attempt to run from inside his own 22 saw his pass intercepted by Briggs, who returned it for a converted try.
With nine minutes to go Garvey finished off a splendid Worcester move for their second try, converted from the touchline by Carlisle.
Sale, however, had the last word when Bell crossed two minutes from time to secure a bonus point and Hodgson added the conversion for a 20-point winning margin.