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Sale Sharks 15 Worcester Warriors 12
DANNY Gray's last-kick-of-the-game drop-goal was charged down as Sale Sharks held on for a Aviva Premiership win over Worcester Warriors.
Fly-half Gray was on as a half-time replacement for Andy Goode, who suffered a hamstring injury, and Warriors sorely missed the former England man's control.
Despite the freezing conditions, the Edgeley Park pitch was in good shape after being covered by an inflatable dome for most of the week, but both teams looked to employ a cagey game-plan.
Kicking from hand - and off the tee - dominated the opening half, with Goode landing three penalties to Nick Macleod's two as Warriors claimed a 9-6 advantage at the half-way stage.
However, Goode was hampered by what seemed to be a hamstring injury sustained chasing his own hack into the Sale 22 and was unable to return after the break despite trying to run off the problem.
Macloeod gave his side a third-minute lead with a well-struck effort from the 10-metre line after Aleki Lutui strayed off-side.
The Sharks stand-off doubled his side's lead when the hosts' pack drew another blow from referee Llyr Apgeraint Roberts' whistle.
Goode opened Warriors' account on 10 minutes when his up-and-under was fumbled by full-back Rob Miller dived on the loose ball and conceded a penalty, which the Warriors fly-half drilled home.
The home eight had enjoyed early favour with the referee, bjut Warriors' scrum forced their way into the ascendancy with tighthead Tevita Taumoepeau edging his battle with former England loosehead Andrew Sheridan.
The Tongan veteran forced a penalty at the next scrum and Goode levelled the scores with a good strike from out wide.
Macleod's re-start was caught by wing Marcel Garvey, who had placed a foot in touch, so play was taken back from a scrum on half-way.
Warriors again forced a penalty at the set-piece and Goode drilled a long-range effort between the uprights to give his side the lead.
Goode's absence forced a tactical re-think for Warriors, who didn't use replacement fly-half Danny Gray as first-receiver nearly as often.
Sale levelled the score on 49 minutes when Worcester were oddly penalised on their own put in and Macleoad made no mistake.
Gray came up short with a penalty chance, before making amends to put Warriors ahead for the first time.
However, Sale rallied and Worcester were hit for not rolling away, which allowed Macleod to again tie the game up.
With just four minutes left on the clock, Sam Betty went in at the side and Macleod made sure his error was punished to the max with what turned out to be the match-winning kick.
Warriors: Pennell; Garvey, Grove, Rasmussen, Benjamin, Goode (Gray h-t), Perry (Arr, 76); Mullan, Lutui (Shervington, 61), Taumoepeau, Percival, Jones (Gillies, 35-40, 61), Betty, Abbott (Kvesic, 63), Cowan. Not used: Porter, Tomaszczyk, Fatiaki. Referee: Llyr Apgeraint Roberts. Attendance: 5,926.