Worcester 15 Sale 34: McAlister matches his billing to cure Sale's travel sickness

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The Independent Online

Sale ended an unenviable record at Sixways last night when they recorded their first Premiership win away from home in 13 months. The win, worth five points thanks to a last- minute try by the lock Dean Schofield, lifted them to fifth in the table, while defeat leaves Worcester still searching for their first Premiership win of the season and in deeper trouble at the bottom of the table.

There was as much interest in the performance of one man – Sale's All Black Luke McAlister – as there was in either side's display.

And McAlister did not disappoint the Sale faithful. He finished with nine points after taking over the kicking from England's Charlie Hodgson. And with his first touch of the ball the powerful former Auckland Blues centre set up the opening score. He made 20 metres before delivering a perfect off-load with his left hand for Lee Thomas to continue the surge into home territory and present the Scotland wing Rory Lamont with Sale's first try in the fourth minute. It was converted by England fly-half Charlie Hodgson, who added a penalty eight minutes later.

Throughout the match McAlister proved a threat, invariably breaking the first tackle, creating chances for his team-mates, and proving a demon in defence.

Territorially Worcester were superior, but pretty well every attack saw the ball finish up in the visitors' hands and Sale were sharp on the counter, as in the 17th minute when Thomas burst upfield on a 40-metre break after some sustained Worcester work in the Sale half. Thomas was eventually caught but from the breakdown the ball went out to Hodgson, who unhesitatingly put in an inch-perfect cross kick for his England colleague Mark Cueto out on the right.

Although Thinus Delport put in a brave tackle just short of the line, Cueto managed to maintain enough momentum to carry him over and convince the television match official that he had grounded the ball.

It took Worcester until the 28th minute to get on the scoreboard, through a Shane Drahm penalty. The closest they got to a try in the first half was a couple of minutes before the interval when the No 8 Netani Talei grabbed the ball and swerved and swayed through the grasping hands of the Sale defenders. He was caught 10 metres short of the line and promptly conceded a penalty for not releasing.

Worcester hopes faded further in the 58th minute when the Sale full-back Ben Foden was sent in for their third try, stepping outside one defender, inside another. Hodgson, who had already missed a couple of kicks at goal, also failed with the conversion of this try.

Sale then lost their England prop Andrew Sheridan, who was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle on Delport. From the penalty Worcester drove a line-out and the captain, Pat Sanderson, broke off the back of the maul for his team's first try. In the aftermath a brawl broke out, ending in a second yellow for Sale – the hooker Sebastien Bruno – and a first for Worcester, blind-side Tom Wood.

Even with two front-row men off the field, 13-man Sale managed to extend their lead with a couple of penalties from McAlister.

Back came Worcester, though, and Sanderson poached his second touchdown from a line-out. But McAlister punished them further with his third successful penalty four minutes from the end and Schofield stole in from the back of a line-out right at the end to clinch the bonus point.

Worcester: Tries Sanderson 2; Conversion Drahm; Penalty Drahm. Sale: Tries Lamont, Cueto, Foden, Schofield; Conversion Hodgson; Penalties Hodgson, McAlister 3.

Worcester: C Pennell; T Delport, D Rasmussen, M Tucker (D Feau'nati, 48), M Garvey; S Drahm, M Powell (N Runciman, 74); D Morris, A Lutui, T Taumoepeau, P Murphy (G Rawlinson, 53), C Gillies, T Wood, P Sanderson (capt), N Talei.

Sale: B Foden; M Cueto, L McAlister, L Thomas (C Mayor, 74), R Lamont; C Hodgson, R Wigglesworth (S Martens, 74); A Sheridan, S Bruno, S Turner, D Schofield (C Day, 62-66), S Cox, J White (capt), S Chabal (D Tait, h/t-73; N Briggs, 73), N Bonner Evans (E Roberts, 73).

Referee: A Spreadbury (Somerset).