WORCESTER Warriors took a giant step towards Aviva Premiership survival with an emphatic 41-24 victory over relegation rivals Bristol at a sold-out Sixways.

Scrum-half Francois Hougaard was outstanding for Warriors who outmuscled their rivals to pick up five crucial points to Bristol’s none on a pulsating afternoon.

Lock Will Spencer and hooker Joe Taufete’e were also superb for six-try Worcester who were always in control after opening up a 31-10 lead at the interval.

Warriors made a flying start and crashed over for the first try after just 66 seconds.

Jordan Crane claimed Ryan Mills’ kick-off but Bristol were penalised at the breakdown and the Worcester fly-half kicked to the corner.

Warriors got the drive going but it was halted illegally by the visitors and referee Wayne Barnes immediately awarded a penalty try.

Bristol lock Dan Tuohy was yellow-carded and Mills added the simple conversion.

Warriors drove back Bristol’s pack in the sixth minute to earn a penalty and Mills split the posts from 40 metres to fire the hosts into a 10-0 lead.

Worcester were reduced to 14 men in the 15th minute when wing Bryce Heem was yellow carded for a tip tackle.

Gavin Henson’s resulting penalty put Bristol on the scoreboard in the 17th minute.

But Warriors grabbed their second try in the 19th minute after an over-thrown line-out from Bristol hooker Marc Jones.

The outstanding Hougaard collected the loose ball and sprinted 40 metres to the try line.

Mills converted to put Warriors 17-3 ahead.

But with the hosts still down to 14 men Bristol pushed forward and Jason Woodward collected a neat pass from Alby Mathewson to crash over from close range.

Henson’s conversion cut Worcester’s lead to 17-10 after 25 minutes.

The first-half drama continued.

Bristol were penalised at their own defensive scrum and after kicking to the corner Spencer powered over the line for Warriors’ third try.

Mills slotted the touchline conversion to fire them 24-10 in front after 33 minutes.

Warriors took a firm grip on the contest with their fourth try with just two minutes of the first half remaining.

A superb break from Hougaard sliced open Bristol’s defence and his neat inside pass gave Heem a simple run to the line.

Mills slotted the conversion to put Warriors 31-10 ahead and sent the Sixways capacity crowd into raptures.

Warriors’ forwards kept up their physical dominance at the beginning of the second half but resilient defensive work from the visitors kept them out.

Bristol then laid siege to Warriors’ line as they searched for a way back into the contest but the home defence held firm.

Ryan Bower replaced Val Rapava Ruskin and Perry Humphreys came on for Chris Pennell as boss Gary Gold looked for impact from the bench.

And Warriors grabbed their fifth try in the 63rd minute through Heem in the right-hand corner after the wing had initially broken through the middle. Mills couldn’t convert but Warriors led 36-10.

Bristol hit back with a close-range try from replacement Max Crumpton with 12 minutes remaining and Woodward converted.

They then grabbed their third try with six minutes remaining.

Tom Varndell intercepted Mills’ pass from deep inside his own half and Jack Wallace drop-kicked the conversion to cut Worcester’s lead to 36-24.

In a chaotic finish Wynand Olivier raced on to Mills’ kick ahead to notch Warriors’ six try at the death to cap a stunning performance for Worcester.