Worcester Warriors 14

Stade Francais 23

What started out as a distant dream before crystallising into a definite possibility ended up in distinct let-down as Worcester opened their Amlin Challenge Cup campaign with a disappointing, pointless defeat.

Yet for ten scintillating, barely credible minutes the first half was a story of Worcester runners slicing, dicing and toasting poor ickle Stade. How they must have wished they'd brought all of their superstars.

Dale Rasmussen dodged tacklers like a slick-hipped disco dancer, Joey Carlisle fizzed exocets that ordered his team-mates over the gain-line like a little pocket general and Warriors scored two excellent tries.

One in 80 appalling minutes against stodgy Newcastle turned into two in double quick time against the star-studded French fancy Dans. Sacre bleu.

And the recalled Chris Pennell, just to prove rugby's script-writer does have a heart, was scorer of the first, creator, if only in a small way, of the second.

The club captain unable to dislodge Errie Claassens from the No. 15 shirt all season and recently bereaved, cut a beautiful line in the sixth minute and scythed through for a cathartic try as poignant as any that will be scored this season.

Their pride nettled Stade came firing back and produced a three-on-one as though it was the simplest thing going. But up popped Pennell to pick their pockets.

The 24-year-old skidded the ball to halfway and Marcel Garvey hared after and ate up Djibril Camara's headstart with every step.

The flying wing prodded on towards the goal-line and won an 80m race so convincingly he had time to steady himself, check his braids for the photographers and flop over. Carlisle added a second conversion and it was 14-0.

It was always going to be too good to be true and the French side laboured their way back into proceedings with two Felipe Contepomi penalties to cut the lead to eight points at the break.

Stade emerged with new-found clarity. Paul Warwick hoofed his side up the Sixways pitch, Worcester infringed and Contepomi made them pay. Again and again - and again.

Four more times in fact as with, the Worcester balloon well and truly popped, the visitors and their cunning little Argentine, squeezed the life out of Warriors' hopes of progressing to the knockout stages.

Contepomi ended up with 18 points with six goals from eight attempts, indeed the only kick he missed in the second half was the conversion of Paul Sackey's 62nd minute try.

By the end Worcester's blistering start was little more than the ghost of a memory and in truth once Stade hauled themselves in front, the English side were never going to have the wit or weaponry to wrestle back the momentum.

Off to Parma it is next week then for a match that will have, none of the glamour and a little meaning to a few individuals but not much for the collective. But, as they say, we'll always have those first ten minutes against the Parisians.

WORCESTER: Pennell; Garvey (Claassens 73), Grove, Rasmussen (Goode 60), Arscott; Carlisle, Perry (Frost 73); Mullan (Porter 69), Lutui (Shervington 60), Tomaszczyk (Taumoepeau 55), Percival, Gillies (Balding 69), Best (Betty 60), Kvesic, Jones

STADE: Williams; Sackey, Contepomi, Tiesi (Fainifo 62), Camara; Warwick, Fillol; Roncero (Milloud 73), De Malmanche (Sempere 56), Wright, Palmer (Mostert 71), Pape, Tomiki (Milloud 29-36 (Burban 40)), Lyons, Parisse. Replacements: Slimani, Plisson, Kelleher,

Referee: Dudley Phillips (IRFU)