A last-minute try gave Sale Sharks Under 23s a narrow victory over Worcester Cavaliers at Heywood Road.
Mark Hewitt’s men got off to a flier with winger Jonas Mikallcius somehow chasing down his kick to score in the first minute before Sale bounced back with Viliami Fihaki.
Jamie Shillcock added two penalties as Worcester led 11-5 at the break before Sale took the lead for the first time in the second period as Tom Brady scored with Joe Ford converting.
Mikallcius demonstrated his talents once more to shove away defenders to score his second try but John O’Donnell immediately replied for Sale.
Max Stelling crossed late on and despite being outstanding in defence all night, Cavaliers couldn’t withstand one last push from the hosts as Tom Sanders stole victory with the last play of the match.
Academy Manager Hewitt named a strong side with Aviva Premiership experience in Stelling, Ravai Fatiaki, Carl Kirwan and Mat Gilbert.
Worcester got off to a dream start as winger Mikallcius kicked towards the whitewash and despite the ball looking set for the dead-ball line, the big winger chased it down to score.
Shillcock’s conversion came back off the upright but the visitors were ahead in the first minute.
Sale went straight down the other end to pile the pressure on Worcester and were rewarded when Fihaki touched down off the back of a five-metre scrum.
Cavaliers then regained the lead as Shillcock slotted a penalty after Worcester raced back into the Sale 22.
And they looked like they might get a second try with Mikallcius, Sam Ripper-Smith and Fatiaki all gaining yards.
Shillcock could’ve extended Cavaliers’ lead but the fly-half slipped as he took his penalty and the ball slid agonisingly wide of the posts.
Sale looked equally as potent in attack as Brady made a break but with men out wide, a loose Sharks pass meant a chance went begging.
The hosts looked to turn the screw but despite being camped in the corner on several occasions, Worcester were able to keep them at bay.
And they were punished when Cavaliers kicked their way up field before Shillcock slotted another penalty to make it 11-5.
Sale continued to search for a second try before the interval but couldn’t make territory count as Worcester went in ahead.
However, the hosts came out fighting and after being halted with the driving maul, they whipped the ball out to Brady who crossed in the corner and Ford converted to give them the lead for the first time on the night.
It was end-to-end stuff as both sides attacked with intent and when Cavaliers got the ball out wide to Mikallcius, the enormous wing brushed off defenders and put the burners on to reach the tryline for a second time.
Shillcock added the extras to put Worcester in front but almost immediately, Sale scored as O’Donnell showed pace of his own to run 40 metres and over the whitewash.
Ford added the two to edge Sale back ahead 19-18 but after another slick Worcester move, Stelling was on hand out wide to score their third try and putting them back in the ascendancy.
The Sharks soon won a penalty and kicked deep into the Cavaliers’ 22 and despite the drive looking promising, superb defence from the visitors denied Sale.
And from the resulting scrum Worcester got the penalty to clear their lines.
The game turned into a real nail-biter at the death as Cavaliers tried to halt their opponents one final time as they pushed and shoved their way towards the chalk – and eventually replacement Sanders grounded to give them the win and Tom Morton converted to end proceedings.
1m: Mikallcius try 0-5
9m: Fihaki try 5-5
17m: Shillcock pen 5-8
33m: Shillcock pen 5-11
46m: Brady try 10-11
47m: Ford con 12-11
55m: Mikallcius try 12-16
56m: Shillcock con 12-18
58m: O’Donnell try 17-18
59m: Ford con 19-18
67m: Stelling try 19-23
80m: Sanders try 24-23
80m: Morton con 26-23
Worcester Cavaliers: 15 Perry Humphreys, 14 Josh Adams, 13 Max Stelling, 12 Ravai Fatiaki, 11 Jonas Mikallcius (Hartpury), 10 Jamie Shillcock, 9 Josh Nott (RGS Worcester/Warriors U18); 1 Derrick Appiah, 2 Jack Singleton, 3 Mike Daniels, 4 Dan Sanderson, 5 Andrew Kitchener, 6 Carl Kirwan (C), 7 Sam Ripper-Smith, 8 Mat Gilbert
Replacements: 16 Ben Sowrey, 17 Joe White (Luctonians RFC), 18 James Page, 19 Charlie Hewitt, 20 Zac Xiourouppa, 21 Robbie Smith (Hartpury/Warriors U18), 22 Stan Mayne (Worcester Sixth Form College/Warriors U18)