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Match Reaction: Worcester Warriors 31 Sale Sharks 23

Dean Ryan admitted the class of Francois Hougaard had proved vital in Worcester Warriors ending their 13-game winless run with victory over Sale Sharks.

The recently-signed Springbok international – who has been playing 7s so far this season – crossed for a try at Sixways on his first Aviva Premiership Rugby appearance.

With no win since round four in the league, the Warriors hit the ground running as Carl Kirwan and Hougaard both went over in the first half.

Dave Seymour gave the Sharks a foothold before the break but the accurate place kicking of Warriors stand-off Tom Heathcote was in stark contrast to Danny Cipriani who had a tough day from the tee.

Tommy Taylor's try straight after half-time trimmed the lead again but Chris Pennell hit straight back for the home side to put them 31-13 to the good.

Sharks full-back Mike Haley then crossed twice in the final 20 minutes to claim the consolation of a four-try bonus point but Cipriani's four missed conversions meant the Warriors victory was secured – and lifts them to tenth in the league standings with Newcastle Falcons playing on Sunday. 

But it was the appearance of Hougaard – 35 times capped by South Africa – that proved vital according to Ryan.

"He only arrived on Monday but Francois was outstanding today. He's a class player and his confidence spread through the team.

"We are delighted to get a win over the form team in the Premiership.

"Apart from the London Irish, our performances haven't been an issue but we just needed a bit of self-belief to get over the line.

"We've put ourselves in a bit of a fight as we missed three or four chances earlier in the season."

The Sharks had won their last six matches in all competitions – their best run since 2007, with their only defeat in their last four away games coming at Exeter on Boxing Day.

But they were made to pay for a slow start according to their director of rugby Steve Diamond.

"In the first half, we weren't at the races. They were hungrier than us and we didn't match it and we made two or three defensive errors,” he said.

"In the second half, we were much better and I'm disappointed that we didn't go away with two bonus points."
Sale skipper and England squad member Josh Beaumont was helped from the field due to injury on the final whistle.

"It's a potential shoulder dislocation and we'll have to wait until Monday for a scan to see the extent of the damage," Diamond said.
 
Worcester Warriors: Pennell; Heem, Olivier, Mills (Symons 70), Vuna; Heathcote, Hougaard; Rapava Ruskin (Leleimalefaga 61), Bregvadze (Annett 61), Schonert, O'Callaghan, Barry (Sanderson 74), Potgieter, Kirwan (Dowson 59), van Velze
Replacements not used: Baldwin, Lamb

Sale Sharks: Haley; Arscott, James, Tuitupou (Jennings 48), Edwards; Cipriani, Stringer (Cusiter 52); Lewis-Roberts (Harrison 48), Taylor, Cobilas (Mujati 48), Mills (Lund 74), Evans, Neild, Seymour (Easter 74), Beaumont
Replacements not used: Briggs, Ford,

Scorers:

Worcester
Tries: Kirwan, Hougaard, Pennell
Conversions: Heathcote 2
Penalties: Heathcote 4

Sale
Tries: Seymour, Taylor, Haley 2
Penalty: Cipriani
Referee: Greg Garner
Attendance: 7,156
 

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