WORCESTER Warriors rose to fourth in the Gallagher Premiership after coming from behind to beat 14-man Sale Sharks 20-13 at Sixways.

Tries from Faf de Klerk and Chris Ashton gave Sale a 10-3 lead but Jean-Luc du Preez’s red card just before the break proved to be the turning point.

Warriors then struck twice in four second-half minutes with Perry Humphreys and Ashley Beck crossing to send their side to a third victory and their best start to a league campaign in 13 years.

Geoff Berkeley picks out five talking points from Saturday’s win.


Had Sharks kept 15 men on the field for 80 minutes it may have been a different story. Sale did well to concede just three points while Simon Hammersley was in the sin-bin for a high tackle on Melani Nanai midway through the first half.

But Warriors’ pressure told after du Preez saw red a minute before the interval.

Shortly after Ashton put his side 10-3 in front, du Preez used his shoulder to strike Graham Kitchener in the face at a ruck.

The slow-motion replays on the big screen when referee Luke Pearce consulted the TMO made it look even worse as du Preez sent Kitchener crashing to the floor.

Fortunately Kitchener was given the OK to continue and Duncan Weir landed the resulting penalty before Warriors upped the ante in the second half.


The one big talking point to come from Alan Solomons’ selection was the inclusion of Ryan Mills on the bench.

Mills has made the number 12 his own over the past two seasons. But with Francois Venter and Beck starring in the win at Harlequins while Mills was sidelined through injury, Solomons opted to stick with the midfield duo.

It was a big call, but Mills did not have to wait long to get his chance with Venter withdrawn at half-time due to an ankle issue.

And the influential centre made an immediate impact as his inside pass released Humphreys for a try.

Mills moved Sale’s defenders around with sharp passing and strong carrying. He was also unlucky not to get a try late on.

The 27-year-old broke through to score over only for it to be chalked off for obstruction as Chris Pennell stopped Jono Ross from making a possible tackle.


There was one nation that stood out when looking through the team sheet.

Sale named seven South African players in their starting line-up while Warriors had four including Nick Schonert and Cornell du Preez who were born in Durban and Port Elizabeth respectively before pledging their allegiances to England and Scotland.

And there were two Springboks involved in the opening try. Venter’s loose pass was intercepted by World Cup-winning scrum-half de Klerk who sprinted home from midway inside Sale’s own half.

Powerful centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg also impressed for Sharks while his countryman Francois Hougaard stood out for Warriors.

The scrum-half’s international career might be over, but he continues to star in blue and gold as he produced a try-saving tackle on Ashton and constantly got his side on the front foot.


There may have been a South African flavour to the match, but Sam Lewis and Beck ensured there was a Welsh influence too.

The ex-Ospreys pair were exceptional with Beck scoring his first Premiership try after getting on the end of Pennell’s sublime break.

Beck’s career has been by blighted injuries as he missed a large chunk of his debut season at Warriors due to a broken leg.

But the 29-year-old appears to have found his feet, starting in Worcester’s opening five league matches, and he caused Sale problems on Saturday.

Lewis was also a thorn in Sharks’ side as he defended robustly and popped up in attack on numerous occasions with a notable break in the second half.

It was another man of the match display from the uncapped Welsh ace who continues to demonstrate his international class.


Five matches, three wins – that’s Warriors’ best start to a Premiership season since the 2005-06 campaign when they went on to finish eighth.

Worcester are usually slow starters as they lost their first five matches in 2017-18 and won just one over the same period last term.

But Warriors have a new-found belief under Solomons and are managing to grind out victories even when they are not on top form.

Du Preez’s red card was key to the result on Saturday but considering Sale beat Warriors at Sixways two years ago when they spent 30 minutes with a man down it was not a foregone conclusion.

The encouraging sign for Solomons is there is still room for improvement as errors continue to creep into their game.

Worcester now face a European Challenge Cup double header against Dean Ryan’s Dragons before visiting rivals Gloucester in the league.