Guinness Premiership: Worcester Warriors 23 Harlequins 30
The match that was supposed to bring relief from the labours of facing the Premiership’s powerhouses did no such thing as Worcester slipped for a fourth defeat in five league games.
While they managed to snatch a loss bonus point at the end, this was an encounter from which they would have budgeted a win and that they did not produce it will give them much to ponder before their top-flight campaign resumes mid way through November.
They will hope that by that time their swingeing injury situation will have abated. They are already without some of his most experienced players, Pat Sanderson, Rico Gear and Marcel Garvey to name but three and lost two more last night as Dale Rasmussen and Kai Horstmann limped off to join the queue in the doctor’s surgery.
Both sustained knee damage and Worcester expect both to be out for weeks rather than days. It was injury added to insult.
That is not to say there were not positives. On his return to the team after a couple of weeks out with an ankle injury Matthew Jones put in a performance that suggested he has all the attributes to lead a Premiership side.
Perhaps as pleasing as the full house he garnered in little more than 20 minutes was the way he invited his runners on to the ball at full pace, not least the magnificently rejuvenated Sam Tuitupou who produced his best game of season.
Jones opened the scoring with a sweetly-struck drop goal, landed a 17th-minute penalty and converted his own impudent try ten minutes later when he slipped outside Gonzalo Tiesi after being freed by Ryan Powell. At that stage his team still had a hope.
That they retained an interest late into the match was largely thanks to Miles Benjamin, who not only scored his first try of the campaign but burst away for a pair of searing breaks that hinted the 20-year-old could be approaching his top form after a sluggish start.
Otherwise the evening was all about another young wing whose international claims are rather more pressing than Benjamin’s.
While the second half belonged to Benjamin the first was all about Ugo Monye whose two-try contribution effectively secured the match for Quins.
But there must also be questions asked about the Warriors defence. As well as Harlequins played during a scintillating half hour phase, the hosts failed to put enough people on the ground and allowed their visitors to score three tries in just five minutes and secure a bonus point by half time.
When set alongside the last quarter of the Bath game, Worcester have conceded seven tries in an hour of rugby and have scored just two in that time. Clive Griffiths, the coach with responsibility for the area, has much to do in the next six weeks.
“I think we are nearly there it’s just not happening for us at the moment,” said Griffiths. “We lost the ball four times and to be fair to them they were clinical, they scored three tries from that and we were then looking down the barrel. At least we salvaged something and to have possibly taken more than a bonus point from the wreckage says something.”
First to cross was Monye who raced on to Chris Malone’s poke through to the corner to touch down. The fact Malone missed the conversion and Jones had already landed a drop goal meant the 5-3 scoreline did not look as ominous as it otherwise might.
That impression was soon corrected. Two minutes later Danny Care delayed his pass seemingly to the point of no return only to release Tiesi through a gap the size of your average bus. The Argentine skirted round Powell and under the sticks.
Then just three minutes later Quins produced the try of the night as they returned the kick off through virtually every pair of hands they possessed.
A delightful move was given the rather prosaic end of Mike Brown plunging over from short range and if that was not some degree of consolation for Worcester the fact only one of the three scores had been converted may have been.
Then just when they thought they had battled their way back into the game, courtesy of Jones who bagged 13 points, Malone sent a booming kick to the hosts’ right corner and Monye made Chris Latham look as though he was running in diving boots as he scorched to the ball.
That made it four tries in 25 minutes.
Trailing 27-13 at the break Worcester needed a fast start to the second half and Benjamin provided exactly that with a score from first phase.
Jones’s loop with Tuitupou and the pace at which Latham came into the line created enough room for the Birmingham-born starlet. The conversion that followed was top drawer and narrowed the gap to seven.
Malone made it 30-20 in the 48th minute and missed another two attempts to deny Worcester the loss bonus earned by his opposite number’s simple effort four minutes from time.
WORCESTER: Latham; Fellows, Rasmussen (Grove, 66), Tuitupou, Benjamin; M Jones, R Powell (M Powell, 61); Mullan, Lutui (Fortey, 70), Taumoepeau (Horsman, 52), Rawlinson, Gillies, Horstmann (Cox, 36), Wood, Talei. Replacements: Kitchener, Crichton
HARLEQUINS: Brown; Strettle (Amesbury, 37), Tiesi, Turner-Hall, Monye (Strettle, 71-78); Malone, Care (Gomarsall, 71); C Jones (Fuga, 62), Botha, Ross, Kohn, Evans, Robshaw, Skinner, Guest. Replacements: Lambert, Robson, Davies, Luveniyali
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).