WORCESTER Warriors' head coach Jonathan Thomas said his team played with pride despite their 32-35 defeat to Sale Sharks at Sixways.

In what was a thrilling encounter between the two sides, Sale outscored Warriors by five tries to four to take the maximum five points from the game, whereas Worcester take two.

The defeat was the 14th straight in the league but Thomas admitted his side restored pride after a few dismal performances in recent weeks.

"I just really feel for the players," he said.

"We spoke all week about showing that we care in our performance - work really hard, have a good attitude, high work rate, kick chase, being physical.

"That's how we framed the week and I thought the boys did that all the way to the death and I just feel really sorry for them, they're giving it their all and this sport can be cruel.

"I thought as a team we were more connected on both attack and defence, there were a few lapses in second half where we conceded crucial tries and there were a few key moments that went against us in that second-half but on the whole a much improved game.

"We are all disappointed that we lost. The game of rugby is all about moments, you win some and you lose some but the game is about how you react to the moments you lose.

"We told the boys to keep fighting, keep working hard even when the scoreboard was against us. Full credit to them for giving it such a good go at the end, it was a heroic effort and I am really proud of them today."

Warriors had made five changes to the side that lost so heavily to Harlequins last weekend and one of those was young Fin Smith, who was handed his first Sixways Premiership start.

Thomas was full of praise for the 18-year-old and said Smith exemplified the attitude of the players on the pitch despite the defeat.

"I am not sure how many tackles he made but Fin Smith had a lot of big men running down his channel and for an 18-year-old I thought his tackling was superb and so was his game control so that's a major positive today," he added.

"I think if you look through the spine of that team you have young, home grown talent. Fin Smith, 18 years old at outside half, our captain Ted Hill, 22, Jamie Shillcock, Andrew Kitchener, Alex Hearle, the list goes on.

"We are being bold at the moment in terms of it is tough for the club to continue losing but the players have put in a heroic performance. Obviously the win is what we are all striving for but this is huge growth and learning for these guys."

Thomas knows himself how challenging it can be when the defeats keep coming but knows this is when you learn the most about the individuals within the squad.

"I have been in this position myself as a player and it is really, really difficult," admitted Thomas.

"It tests your team culture so much when you go through a period like this, every sports person has been through it but you learn a lot about people.

"Team culture is great when you're winning but you find out more about it when you go through what we are but full credit to the support all these guys are giving each other.

"It's difficult when you're losing but the supporters of this club and any club want to see their players playing for the jersey and with pride and that's 100 per cent what the players did today."