Sale lock Jean-Luc Du Preez was sent off as the Sharks crashed to a 20-13 Gallagher Premiership defeat to Worcester at Sixways.
In the 39th minute the South African put his shoulder into the face of Worcester’s Graham Kitchener.
As a result of the blow, the Warriors’ lock received medical treatment with a number of his side’s players expressing their dissatisfaction to Du Preez and after a number of replays, the South African was ordered off.
At that stage Sale had scored two tries from Faf De Klerk and Chris Ashton to Worcester’s none and looked favourites for victory but Du Preez’s action ruined their chances.
Worcester were able to take control with Perry Humphreys and Ashley Beck scoring tries. Duncan Weir converted both and added two penalties.
AJ MacGinty’s late penalty gave Sale a losing bonus point.
The first 15 minutes were very poor as both sides made elementary handling errors. As a result there was no flow to the game with referee Luke Pearce not helping matters by awarding a penalty at each of the first four scrums.
A score did not appear imminent but it came from nowhere when De Klerk intercepted a telegraphed pass from Francois Venter to run 70 metres for the opening try.
Venter did his best to make amends with a couple of powerful thrusts before Sale’s Simon Hammersley was yellow carded for a high tackle on Worcester wing Melani Nanai.
Warriors capitalised with a Weir penalty but that was the only damage done to the scoreboard in the full-back’s absence.
Moments of creativity were few and far between but a neat run-around move between MacGinty and Rob Du Preez saw Hammersley threaten the home line but resolute defence from Warriors kept it intact.
However knock-ons from Weir and Sam Lewis allowed Sale to maintain the pressure and they picked up their second try when Ashton won the race to collect a well-judged chip ahead from Rob Du Preez and touchdown.
Then came the sending off and Weir stepped up to kick the resulting penalty to leave his side trailing 10-6 at the interval.
Venter was replaced at half-time by Ryan Mills, who made a couple of key contributions to Worcester’s first real period of pressure. Francois Hougaard, Weir and Ted Hill were other major contributors to the offensive but Sale temporarily held out.
In the 54th minute, Warriors took the lead for the first time when Mills and Weir combined sweetly to send Humphreys away to score.
Within three minutes, Warriors had a second try when Chris Pennell ripped the visitors’ defence to shreds and Beck was on hand to race in.
Sale could have folded but MacGinty’s penalty rewarded their spirit and secured a valuable bonus point.