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Worcester Warriors hand Sale Sharks a seventh straight Aviva Premiership defeat
Sale Sharks slumped to their seventh straight Aviva Premiership defeat as Worcester Warriors battled their way to a 23-16 victory at Sixways.
Andy Goode's converted try 15 minutes from time earned Worcester just their second win of the season as despite their losing bonus point, Sale remain seven points adrift of 11th-placed London Irish.
The Warriors' former England fly-half scored 18 points, while Sale crossed twice through Mark Cueto and full-back Nick Macleod, while fly-half Danny Cipriani added two penalties.
It took the Warriors barely a minute to open their account as Goode landed a touchline penalty, but Sale's response proved swift and impressive.
From their first attack they retained possession smartly, and Cueto sliced through a gap to score in the right-hand corner, giving him his 74th Premiership try and leaving him just one behind his former team-mate Steve Hanley's all-time league record.
Cipriani missed a difficult conversion attempt, and Worcester quickly regained the lead when Goode slotted an angled penalty to make it 6-5 after nine minutes, before Cipriani's opening penalty strike restored the visitors' advantage.
Worcester struggled noticeably at the lineouts, losing four in succession on their own throw, but against the run of play seven minutes before the break David Lemi jinked his way over on an angled 30-metre run that showcased his devastating finishing ability.
Goode added the conversion before he slotted a penalty on the stroke of half-time, as a 10-point onslaught in six minutes gave Warriors a 16-8 interval advantage.
Cipriani opened the second-half scoring with another penalty and after almost constant Sale pressure Cueto delivered a scoring pass to Macleod.
Cipriani was again wide with the conversion attempt, yet Sale had tied things up at 16-16, ensuring a gripping finale which ultimately belonged to Goode, who crashed over in the corner and then converted his own try.
Sale spent the closing minutes battering away at Worcester's line, but they could not capitalise on their forwards' admirable collective effort.
It took a superb try-saving tackle from Worcester scrum-half Paul Hodgson to deny Sale substitute Will Addison in the game's last attack, with both players requiring lengthy treatment after referee Greg Garner blew the final whistle.
Addison limped away, while a similarly groggy Hodgson also returned to his feet, albeit several minutes later.
That incident summed up a game bursting with commitment from both sides, as well as Sale's frustrating season to date.
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|Sunday 28th December|
|14:30||Gloucester vs Wasps|
|Friday 2nd January|
|19:45||Northampton vs Newcastle Falcons|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|14:00||Saracens vs London Irish|
|16:30||Exeter vs Gloucester|
|Sunday 4th January|
|14:00||Wasps vs Sale|
|14:00||Leicester Tigers vs Bath|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Harlequins|
|Friday 9th January|
|19:45||Gloucester vs Saracens|
|Saturday 10th January|
|14:00||Sale vs Northampton|
|15:00||Bath vs Wasps|
|15:15||Harlequins vs Leicester Tigers|
|Sunday 11th January|
|14:00||Newcastle Falcons vs London Welsh|
|15:00||London Irish vs Exeter|
|Saturday 14th February|
|15:00||Leicester vs Gloucester|
|15:00||Exeter vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Northampton vs London Irish|
|Sunday 15th February|
|14:00||Wasps vs Harlequins|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Sale|
|15:00||Saracens vs Bath|
|Friday 20th February|
|20:00||Newcastle vs Wasps|
|Saturday 21st February|
|14:00||Sale vs Saracens|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Exeter|
|15:00||London Irish vs Leicester|
|15:00||Bath vs Northampton|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Welsh|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com