Aviva Premiership: Struggling Sale Sharks defeat Worcester Warriors
Last Updated: 28/12/12 10:38pm
Sale closed the gap on nearest rivals London Irish at the bottom of the Aviva Premiership table with a hard-fought 33-27 victory over Worcester.
The Sharks trailed 9-0 and then 16-7 at Salford City Stadium but battled back in a feisty encounter to claim just their second league triumph of the season so far, meaning they are now only a point adrift at the foot of the standings.
An 18-point haul from the recalled Danny Cipriani complimented tries from Richie Gray, James Gaskell and Mark Cueto, whose score saw him draw level with former team-mate Steve Hanley's all-time Premiership record of 75.
Former England international Andy Goode kicked three penalties to put the Warriors into an early lead before Sale grabbed the opening try, Gray forcing his way over through a pack of bodies.
Yet Worcester hit back with a try of their own, Matt Kvesic's simple offload sending fellow flanker Neil Best burrowing over the line from close range.
Goode converted with ease to put the visitors nine points clear again, but the momentum turned when they lost full-back Chris Pennell to the sin-bin for holding down.
Sale closed the gap with a well-worked score for Gaskell and although Goode kicked a penalty two minutes into the second half, the Warriors again found themselves down to 14 when winger Nikki Walker was punished for a deliberate knock-on.
Cipriani kicked the resulting penalty and a further three points from his boot in the 54th minute put his team in front for the first time on the night.
That lead didn't last too long; Sale replacement Fraser McKenzie was sin-binned within a minute of his introduction for flattening Semisi Taulava, allowing Goode to knock over his fifth penalty and edge Worcester back in front.
However, Sale managed to find a crucial try when still a man light, Gray and Richie Vernon combining to send Cueto scampering over in the left corner. Cipriani landed a fine conversion to put Sale 27-22 in front, before two further penalties from the number 10 opened up a comfortable cushion.
In the end the Sharks needed those points, a scrappy late try in the right corner from replacement Matt Kvesic - which Goode failed to convert - meaning the Warriors had to settle for only a losing bonus point.
Aviva Premiership Round 12
Action from all six of the Aviva Premiership games on the last weekend of the year.
Leicester's director of rugby Richard Cockerill criticised referee Andrew Small after his side beat Gloucester 17-12.
The Sky Sports experts explained the lessons to be learned by Gloucester after defeat at Leicester.