Francois Hougaard scored on his debut for Worcester Warriors in their important 31-23 win over Sale Sharks at Sixways.
Fly-half Tom Heathcote was crucial to the victory, picking up 16 points as Dean Ryan’s team move up to 10th in the Premiership.
On his first appearance since announcing his exit from 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 home side started the game well, an early penalty aimed for the corner culminated in Heathcote getting a chance for the early points. He hit the second penalty through the posts, and Worcester led 3-0.
Worcester stretched their lead further in the opening exchanges, some patient play from the lineout led to Carl Kirwan crossing the whitewash unchallenged, but Heathcote failed to add the extras.
Cipriani brought the visitors back into the game with a simple penalty from Sale’s first attack of the afternoon. The hosts looked to have extended their lead even further through a fantastic move.
Heathcote broke from the scrum and Bryce Heem touched down, but the TMO ruled there was a hand in the scrum, and the try was disallowed.
Worcester could have been forgiven for letting their heads drop, but instead, debutant Hougaard made the most of being in the right place at the right time, touching down from close range. Heathcote sneaked his effort inside the post.
And moments later, Heathcote kicked another penalty, making it 18-3. Then, on the verge of half-time, Sale’s Dave Seymour got over the line after the forwards powered the maul up the pitch, although Cipriani was unable to convert.
From the restart, Mike Haley was shown a yellow card for slowing down play in the ruck, and another Heathcote penalty made it 21-8 at the break.
Despite starting the second half with an extra man, Worcester looked weak, and a succession of penalties led to Tommy Taylor touching down. Cipriani’s kicking record was called into question once more, his effort sailing well wide of the post.
But Sale struggled to get a further foothold in the game, with Chris Pennell’s try converted by Heathcote following excellent work on the flank. Heathcote was again on the scoresheet just minutes later, this time via a penalty.
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.
Tries: Kirwan, Hougaard, Pennell
Cons: Heathcote 2
Pens: Heathcote 5
Yellow Card: Schonert
Tries: Seymour, Taylor, Haley 2
Yellow Card: Haley
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
Referee: Gregory Garner
Assistant Referees: Simon McConnell, Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Grashoff / David Rose