GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP: WORCESTER WARRIORS 20 BRISTOL 20
Until Saturday Worcester’s Warriors could have considered themselves fortunate that Chris Latham’s attacking intent had been focused purely on opponents. Until Saturday, that is.
Following his team’s half-performance which produced a limp draw, the Australian full back, who in just three months at Sixways has already attained legendary status, turned his attention on his under-achieving side and urged it to take “a long hard look” in the mirror after letting Bristol slip the noose.
The former Wallaby, who with 78 caps and a world class pedigree knows what it takes to succeed, didn’t even try to conceal his frustration at the brainless way in which the hosts wasted a 20-17 lead on the last play of the game and squandered the chance to move ten points clear of the bottom of the table.
Failure to prevent a quick lineout on their own 22 which resulted in a lack of defensive organisation and Kai Horstmann’s high tackle on David Lemi, gifted a limited visiting team the penalty they needed to level the score. Ed Barnes did the rest. After that Latham didn’t even try to hide his disgust and issued a withering assessment of Worcester’s failings, primarily a lack of mental fortitude.
“Were there any positives? The second- half performance was one. There’s a time when you can be upbeat and positive – that’s a good thing to have – but there’s also a time when you have to have a hard look at yourselves,” he said.
“I think individually we need to have a good hard look at our individual and team preparation because if we want to move forward we certainly have to do that.
“The mental side of it [is key], for a full 80. Good teams can play badly but still win games because they are technically and mentally strong. That is where we need to be. It comes down to the individual. I don’t think it’s something that can be team measured, it’s an individual thing.”
It took them more than half an hour to score a single point. By that time they had spent 20 minutes failing to control the ball against highly motivated opponents and lost Dale Rasmussen to a yellow card.
Dan Ward-Smith capitalised on the Samoan’s caution for pulling back Lee Robinson when he scored an outstanding try by breaking three tackles to reach over the line. Barnes converted.
The Bristol fly-half and his opposite number, Eoghan Hickey, traded penalties to give the visitors a 10-3 half-time lead.
Hickey, on loan from London Irish, produced a decent first game at No 10 for Worcester. He kicked out of hand reasonably well, for goal very well and fulfilled his defensive obligations with admirable commitment.
If there is a criticism – and it could be equally levelled at half back partner Matt Powell, it was that he didn’t really get the backs moving in the first hour.
It was only when Ryan Powell came on at scrum half the home backline amounted to anything like the sum of the parts.
The teams had also swapped tries by then. Worcester’s scrum was justifiably awarded a penalty try in the 47th minute but Robinson crossed on the hour to give Bristol a 17-13 lead.
Enter Latham. With 12 minutes to go Chris Pennell made inroads down the left. Play was swung right and a beautifully timed pass by Sam Tuitupou gave Netani Talei and the below-par Pat Sanderson room to send their talismanic full back over in the corner.
Hickey’s touchline conversion, with Lemi practically in his face, was outstanding.
WORCESTER: Latham; Gear, Rasmussen, Tuitupou, Pennell; Hickey, Powell M (Powell R 66); Mullan, Lutui, Taumoepeau (Horsman 62), Rawlinson, Gillies, Talei, Sanderson, Horstmann. Replacements: Fortey, Bowley, Cox, Carlisle, Luscombe.
BRISTOL: Arscott; Robinson, Brew, Eves, Lemi; Barnes, Perry; Clarke (Hobson 75), Regan (Linklater 62), Hobson (Crompton 52), Sambucetti (Attwood 66), Sidoli, Budgett, To’oala, Ward-Smith. Replacements: Phillips, Beveridge, Jarvis, Barden
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).