|Worcester (6) 20|
|Tries: Humphreys, Beck Cons: Weir 2 Pens: Weir 2|
|Sale (10) 13|
|Tries: De Klerk, Ashton Pen: MacGinty|
Worcester Warriors made the most of their man advantage as they came from 10-3 down to beat Sale at Sixways.
Unconverted tries by World Cup winner Faf de Klerk and England winger Chris Ashton put Sale in command until Jean-Luc du Preez’s red card for a shoulder-led challenge on Graham Kitchener.
Duncan Weir kicked the resulting penalty, his second kick of the half.
He then landed two more kicks to convert two tries in two minutes from winger Perry Humphreys and Ashley Beck.
AJ MacGinty’s penalty narrowed the gap to earn Sale a losing bonus point, although that was nearly wiped out by a late, disallowed Ryan Mills try for the hosts.
Perennial Premiership strugglers Worcester’s third league win in five games this season lifts them to the giddy heights of fourth in the table, ahead of this weekend’s two remaining games – Bristol v London Irish and Harlequins v Gloucester, both on Sunday.
But this latest victory hinged on the 39th-minute red card for Du Preez after the South African had put his shoulder into the face of Worcester’s Kitchener, in attempting a clear-out.
Sale were in front after his countryman De Klerk had intercepted a pass from Francois Venter to run 70 metres for the opening try, followed by Ashton winning the race to Rob du Preez’s well-judged chip ahead.
But it all turned ugly for the Du Preez family when Warriors lock Kitchener was left receiving medical treatment and after a number of replays on Sixways’ new big screen, Du Preez was sent off, allowing Weir to reduce the interval lead to 10-6.
The influential Mills’ second-half arrival at centre then also proved a key factor. First, he combined with Weir to send in winger Humphreys and then Chris Pennell tore through the Sale defence to set up Welsh centre Beck, and then Mills so nearly scored himself.
Worcester director of rugby Alan Solomons:
“I’m chuffed to bits as it was a very important game for us. There were two very physical sides out there. But you can’t just rely on the fact that they’ve gone down to 14 men to win.
“I told them it was like playing with the wind. You still have to maintain your structures. We stressed that we had to get field position, hold onto the ball and the points would come, which they did.
“It was a pretty edgy affair and both teams made a lot of errors early on. But our set-piece was impressive and it was a good performance across the board.
“We’ve only played five games so there’s a long way to go, but I’m delighted at what we’ve achieved so far.”
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond:
“The dismissal was a big game-changer as we were in control and it was frustrating to lose the big fellow to such an innocuous clear-out.
“In fairness, I’ve only seen the incident from one angle and it didn’t look a red card, but it may look worse from other angles.
“But they should have had a yellow card when Duncan Weir crashed into Faf de Klerk, three seconds after he had touched down for our first try.
“We stuck in there and won some good turnovers, but we need to manage the basics better, although I’m happy with a bonus point.”
Worcester: Pennell; Humphreys, Venter, Beck, Nanai; Weir, Hougaard; Waller, Annett (capt), Schonert, Bresler, Kitchener, Hill, Lewis, du Preez.
Replacements: Moulds, Black, Palframan, Fatialofa, van Velze, Heaney, Lance, Mills.
Sale: Hammersley; Solomona, van Rensburg, R du Preez, Ashton; MacGinty, de Klerk; Morozov, van der Merwe, Oosthuizen, Evans, J-L du Preez, T Curry, B Curry, Ross (capt).
Replacements: Webber, Harrison, John, Phillips, Postlethwaite, Papier, James, Yarde.
Sin-bin: Hammersley (20).
Red card: J-L du Preez (40).
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU).