Northampton Saints 42
Worcester Warriors 14
WORCESTER used the final day of this season to find out just how much work they have to do between now and the first game of the next as Richard Hill's remodelled team presented him with more questions than answers.
How the Warriors head coach must have lamented the sudden rash of injuries that deprived the club's supporters of a chance to send so many of their front-line players into the summer with one last cheer. In the last week alone nine went down with various pulls, strains and sweeping, all-encompassing fatigue. What a terrible coincidence.
At least those Worcester followers would not have travelled to Northampton on the pretence they would see a full team, Hill had made his intentions clear in midweek and if anyone is irritated by this selection they probably live in Exeter.
And as he pointed out afterwards, no-one should feel too sorry for the Chiefs, certainly not those charged with figuring a way of ending their perennial relegation concerns by lifting Worcester up the Premiership table.
To do that they have to become a more complete side, one not just built on Phil Larder's blanketing defence but one also capable opening up and knocking out opponents. And that was why this match was such an interesting one.
Hill contended afterwards that many of his younger, less-tested players did well and that his side showed signs of being a more dangerous attacking proposition.
He was right to do so, especially in the case of Josh Drauniniu's first half try, which came from broken play but was so well-executed it had all the hallmarks of a well-rehearsed first phase score.
Chris Fortey bashed his way up to the 22, the Worcester forwards produced quick ball and it was whisked into midfield where Drauniniu and Tom Arscott combined to spring the trap.
Indeed the former London Welsh man enjoyed what was undoubtedly his best Premiership performance in Blue and Gold.
Miles Benjamin excelled on the wing and demonstrated just why Leicester Tigers want him so much and Ravai Fatiaki was also a dominant presence in midfield with several muscular bursts up the middle.
Infuse the back-line with some David Lemi stardust and a bit of Errie Claassens magic and the pieces might just be in place for Worcester to finally become the expansive side they need to become to take the next step.
However, and it is a big however, this match was also notable for the dissolution of their set-piece and their lack of enough physical forwards.
Hill also reckoned his side didn't secure a single bit of set-piece ball in the final quarter and as a result 'fell apart'.
Without - and sometimes even with - Craig Gillies their lineout has become unreliable at best and a downright liability at worst.
Their scrum creaked and too few of their ball carriers made sufficient metres over the gain-line. It would be a cruel irony if after years of trying to build a decent threequarter division, their pack suddenly went south just as they had done so.
And remember that Hill hasn't only got to add depth to his forwards on the pitch, he also needs to find a specialist coach off it. Whoever that is, then needs to rework both set-pieces and ensure their break-down work guarantees a regular supply of quick possession. That's quite a lot to do in one summer.
All of which is probably why Northampton didn't have to do much more than pick the bountiful low-hanging fruit that was on offer.
With missed tackles responsible for virtually all of the Saints' five tries, except for the fourth in which James Craig picked Ben Gulliver's pocket at a lineout near the visitors' line and fed Teimana Harrison, Northampton didn't have to do too much.
Indeed they will have to play considerably better against Harlequins if they are to have any chance of reaching the Premiership final. As for Worcester it's drawing board time.
NORTHAMPTON: Foden; Ashton (May 19), Pisi, Downey, Diggin; Myler (Lamb 50), Dickson (Roberts 60); Tonga'uhia (Waller 63), Long (McMillan 60), Mujati (Doran Jones 54), Sorenson (Harrison 57), Day, Craig, Dowson, Wilson (Nutley 66)
WORCESTER: Arscott; Benjamin, Grove (Hayter 68), Fatiaki, Drauniniu; Gray (Carlisle 50), Perry (Arr 46); Porter (Jones 12), Fortey (Shervington 55), Douglas (Furniss 68), Percival, Gillies (Gulliver 60), Best (Betty 60), Kvesic (Fortey 79), Horstmann
Referee: Greg Garner (RFU)