LV= Cup: Worcester Warriors 24 Ospreys 14
Worcester Warriors braved Arctic conditions and a determined Ospreys side to close their LV= Cup campaign with a hard-fought victory.
A brace from Josh Drauniniu and one from Jake Abbott brought the Sixways outfit their second Pool 4 win and although it wasn’t enough to take them through, it was at least their first success for three games.
That means they resume their Premiership run in at Sale on Friday night on the back of a success as they bid to break into the top half of the league for the first time in their history.
But they were made to fight and if there was any suggestion an inexperienced Ospreys side would lie down Worcester were disabused of that notion very quickly as the Welshmen made a bright start in the snow.
“The players couldn’t feel their hands,” said head coach Richard Hill.
“They were saying they couldn’t even tell whether they’d caught the ball or not without looking to see if it was in their midriff, It was very difficult.”
Especially for scrum half Shaun Perry who struggled to control the greasy ball and started off poorly in the sixth minute when his up and under flew too deep and allowed Hanno Dirksen to counter-attack from deep.
The young wing did so with alacrity as he crossed halfway and had the home defence scrambling.
Half a dozen phases later Matthew Morgan spotted Tom Arscott out of position and bobbled a kick to the line where he scooped up himself to score.
The classy fly half converted to make it 7-0 to the visitors.
But Worcester’s power at the scrum was always going to have a bearing on proceedings and it started to tell on the quarter hour when they won the first of several penalties.
Andy Goode cleared downfield and a powerful lineout drive took the hosts into the 22. But from another attacking scrum Perry fumbled the ball and Morgan clattered clear.
Warriors’ forward pressure continued to give them control and with Goode turning down several shots at goal it was only going to be a matter of time before a home try came.
Which is did midway through the period when the impressive Blair Cowan claimed the close range lineout which Jake Abbott rode to over the line. Goode’s extras levelled the match.
Hill’s men were in charge for the rest of the opening period but could not find their way through again.
Their pressure eventually forced referee Ian Davies to show a yellow card to Ospreys openside Sam Lewis after he crept in at the side as Drauniniu tried to jink through.
Even then, with several attacking lineouts Worcester were unable to club the Swansea-side into submission.
They did that straight after the interval though as Goode and Drauniniu effectively gave the hosts the game.
Warriors made a composed start and showed outstanding continuity from the first whistle as their forwards thundered to the line.
Eventually after several phases Goode flung a long 43rd-minute cut-out pass to the left wing where Drauniniu had an easy run to the corner. Goode improved for 14-7.
And only three minutes later the pair teamed up again for the Fijian born-winger’s second. The Ospreys defence parted in front of Goode who broke across halfway and into the 22 where play eventually reached Tom Arscott.
The full back did superbly to take the tackle and off-load to Goode who gave Drauniniu another easy try which was once again improved.
With the conditions deteriorating a 14-point lead was always going to be enough even though Dirksen scored with half an hour left.
The Celtic League side had a rare position in the home 22 as former Test prop Duncan Jones hammered the ball near to the line. That sucked the Worcester rearguard in and Morgan spotted Drauniniu having crept inside and lifted a punt to the corner where Dirksen collected. Morgan converted.
The final points came on the hour as a Goode penalty made Ospreys pay for not rolling away. Worcester finished the stronger but as the ball became even less easy to control and a tidal wave of replacements took rhythm out of the game they were unable to translate that into points.