Worcester 43 Leeds 34

That Worcester Warriors triumphed in the first leg of a European semi-final would normally be cause for celebration.

Just making it this far would, in other circumstances, be enough for Champagne and slapped backs.

Unfortunately this particular European competition carries all the prestige of a preseason friendly, and was treated as such by both teams.

It is a competition regarded with distaste by many, and with complete apathy by others.

Tim Stimpson, a player who has won the Heineken Cup with Leicester and now plys his trade with Leeds, considers it to be beneath his talents and would like to see it used for development squads and amateur sides.

Warriors coach Andy Keast and his Leeds counterpart Phil Davies view it as a chance to give some fringe players a game.

So the fact that Worcester have taken a slender lead into the next leg is of a lesser importance to Keast than the rugby they played to achieve victory.

There was something carefree about the Warriors' approach. Not constrained by the need to secure vital Premiership points, they ran the ball constantly, kicked infrequently, and during an impressive 17-minute spell at the beginning of the second half racked up 21 points with some fine flowing rugby.

It turned a 15-point deficit into a lead which they never relinquished.

"I enjoyed it. The difference was, there was no pressure," said Keast.

"You try and get the players to play like that all the time, but they can go within their shell at times. They've just got to realise that it's about their ability to move

the ball, at the right time."

For both clubs though there are more important things at stake - avoiding the drop to National One being the most pressing.

Not that Worcester are thinking that way. The acquisition of Shane Drahm and Andy Gomarsall, for a reported £ 150,000 and £175,000 per year respectively does not reflect a club considering relegation.

And the buying is not expected to stop there. Gomarsall's Gloucester team -mate James Forrester is being touted as another possible addition as are Fijian Sireli Bobo and South African Breyton Paulse.

None of which isn't to suggest that Worcester weren't totally focused on beating Leeds.

"Don't like to lose, full stop," said Keast.

"None of us like to lose. We were open and honest and said it wasn't at the top of our priorities, but we just don't like to lose, so we wanted to win this game."

As did Leeds, who wanted to keep the momentum going from their shock win over Leicester last weekend. But where Keast had an enjoyable afternoon, Davies' was less so.

The Tykes coach was unhappy with his side's defending and suggested that several players who had been given a chance had made his team selection much easier for the coming weeks.

Keast, too, used the game to give some of his Worcester players a run-out.

Jonny Hylton made a welcome return to the side after an eight-month absence with a knee injury, scored the obligatory early try, and then fell to pieces.

Two mistakes, two tries for Leeds, and the winger had turned his side's 12-6 lead into an eight-point deficit. Hylton's comeback was mercifully cut short when he was replaced by Duncan Roke, moments after the second try.

Paul Sampson also made a rare outing on Warriors' other wing, scoring one try and creating another for Thinus Delport.

Having taken advantage of Hylton's mistake, Leeds extended their lead with a Stimpson try on half-time. The full-back had a fine game touching down twice and scoring 24 points in all.

All Leeds' good work though was undone by replacement Diego Albanese a minute after the break. The Italian was sin-binned for a deliberate knock on five metres short of his own line. Worcester were awarded a penalty try and, aided by the extra man, crossed twice more through Delport and Sampson.

Stimpson grabbed his second after a Tommy Hayes penalty to reduced the gap to two points, but Worcester held on and a Gary Trueman try deep into injury time sealed the win.

Not that it seems to matter. Both sides have other things on their minds. But the fans went away happy, and at least everyone enjoyed themselves.

WORCESTER: Delport; Sampson (Brown, 72), Hinshelwood, Trueman, Hylton (Roke, 31), Hayes, Cole; Sparks, Van Niekerk, Fortey (Windo, 40; Hall, 58), Murphy, Macleod-Henderson, Vaili (Gillies, 64), Mason, Hickey. Replacements: Daly, Powell.

LEEDS: Stimpson; Rees, Christophers, Bell (Albanese, 40), Biggs, McMullen, Dickens (McMillan, 54); Cusack, Rawlinson, Holt, Hooper, Palmer (Morgan, 54), Dunbar, Hyde, Popham. Replacements: Regan, Shelly, Parks, Ross.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).