Worcester 33 Sale 48
John Brain's reaction to this game speaks volumes for the expectations at Sixways. Whereas surviving was an achievement last year, anything less than a top-six spot this time round would be considered a disappointment.
So, while losing at home to the league leaders wouldn't normally be considered a dis-grace, the fact that Worcester Warriors conceded 48 points stung Brain and his team. Doubly so, when they expected to win.
Worcester's director of rugby said: "We have an expectation at home against Sale that we can win and that's why we are very disappointed not to have done that.
"We've been taught a harsh lesson today, I think, in some respects. I think we shot ourselves in the foot quite a lot and if you turn over ball or are loose in any way with your possession, either handling it or kicking it, they've got the ammunition to punish you, and they did that, very, very clinically."
Even given Brain's reaction, it is difficult to tell if Worcester are 15 points worse than Sale, or whether they just had a bad day. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.
Phillipe Saint Andre's side are the best team in the Premiership but Worcester have been as high as fourth this season and are normally a force to be reckoned with at home.
The Warriors rely on structure, on controlling the set piece, on keeping the game tight and on over-powering the opposition.
Sale have more of the Gallic flair in their approach - powerful forward play mixed with a willingness to run the ball in any situation.
Both teams were without key players. Sale, having lost six to the Six Nations, fielded two British Lions in Mark Taylor and Jason Robinson.
Worcester felt their loss more keenly. Their normal game plan relies most heavily upon skipper Pat Sanderson and prop Chris Horsman. Both are injured.
While Sale could absorb the impact of missing six players, the relative weaknesses of the Worcester squad were exposed by their loss.
Worcester failed to control the game. A lack of set pieces in an unstructured contest, largely brought on by the home side's inability to use the ball well when in possession, gave Sale enough space to run in six tries through Valentin Courrent, Dean Schofield, Andy Titterrall, Silio Martens, Oriol Ripol and Steve Hanley.
Worcester scored three but never had enough creativity or power to overcome their failings in the more basic aspects of the game. Sloppy handling and kicking ultimately cost them.
Brain's men gave an error-strewn display and Sale, with the dominating presence of Sebastien Chabal up front and Courrent behind, took full advantage.
Courrent scored 23 points and was instrumental in almost all of the tries, including scoring his side's first. But to suggest that Sale did all the running would be to do Worcester and, in particular, Shane Drahm and Andy Gomarsall, a disservice.
The pair have come in for their fair share of criticism but, with an open game, they provided an insight into the type of adventurous style that Worcester could play if they were slightly more clinical and less constrained by a game plan dominated by tenman rugby.
Drahm scored 23 points and if his place-kicking had been better, Worcester may well have pushed Sale closer. Collective errors like the one that handed Sale hooker Andy Titterrall a try, immediately after Drahm had scored to drag his side to within four points at 23-27, made the difference.