By Geoff Berkeley Monday 31 December 2012 Updated: 01/01 20:04
Sale Sharks 33 Worcester Warriors 27
WORCESTER Warriors ended 2012 on a disappointing note as they were defeated by bottom-side Sale Sharks at the Salford City Stadium.
Richard Hill’s men got off to a storming start as Andy Goode fired over three penalties inside the opening 15 minutes. Neil Best replied to Richie Gray’s try, but James Gaskell went over to leave Warriors holding just a slender 16-14 advantage at the break.
Worcester then paid the price for a second dismissal in the match shortly after the interval as Danny Cipriani nudged his side into the lead for the first time.
Mark Cueto scored the decisive try on the hour mark before Matt Kvesic crashed over to salvage a losing bonus point late on.
Worcester seemed determined to end their dismal away record, which has not seen them pick up a victory on their travels in almost a year, as they took the game to their struggling opponents.
The visitors were dominant at the set piece and breakdown as Goode opened up a 9-0 lead with three penalties which also saw him break the club's points scoring record.
Nikki Walker then came close to getting the first try on the board when Paul Hodgson sent the Scot through, but he was bundled into touch by Rob Miller.
After withstanding early pressure, Sale were keen to turn the tables as Cipriani turned down an opportunity at the posts to kick for the corner. And the decision paid off as Gray drove over from the line-out, which Cipriani converted to cut back the deficit.
But Worcester remained composed as they kept the ball well to advance up-field before Best found a gap to scramble over. Goode added the extras to secure a 16-7 lead inside the first half an hour.
Warriors were in command, but momentum soon changed when Chris Pennell was sent to the bin after failing to roll away.
And the Sharks eventually took advantage of the extra man when Gaskell scored after heavy pressure on the visitors’ line. Cipriani converted to trail by two points at the break.
Goode got Worcester off a strong start with a penalty to move 19-14 in front, but the away side were guilty of their own downfall as Walker saw yellow for a deliberate knock on.
Cipriani landed the resulting penalty and then nearly helped create Sale’s third try, but Cueto knocked on with the try-line beckoning.
The home side did take the lead, though, on 53 minutes with a long range penalty from Cipriani.
But the match took another twist moments later when Sale were reduced to 14 men when Fraser McKenzie was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Semisi Taulava.
Goode edged his side in front from the tee, but Worcester then suffered a big set-back when Cueto finished off a well-worked try, which Cipriani converted to move 30-22 clear.
Worcester had the chance to hit back, but Goode’s penalty drifted wide, while Cipriani continued his impressive form with the boot to extended Sharks’ lead.
Time was running out for Warriors as they tried to claw their way back into it. Kvesic went over to get within seven points with two minutes remaining, but that was to be the final act in the match.
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