ASM Clermont Auvergne 29 Worcester 23
Warriors’ director of rugby John Brain thinks Clermont Auvergne may well have under-estimated Worcester before this match, and they certainly looked shell-shocked as two late tries by replacement flanker Gavin Quinnell left Worcester with an outside chance of reaching the knock-out stages for the third successive season.
Their French opponents maintain their position as favourites to win this second tier of European cup rugby with a 29-23 victory, but a last minute surge by John Brain’s men gave them a valuable bonus point.
Brain says Quinnell has enormous potential should he manage to get himself fit, and the 22-year-old certainly showed his strength and power as he burst over the line three minutes into injury time.
There was no stopping the youngest member of the Welsh rugby dynasty as he added a second just three minutes later and, as replacement fly-half Shane Drahm slotted through the conversion he brought Worcester to within seven points and a losing bonus point which may prove crucial on the return match at Sixways in January.
The Warriors, who had opened their campaign with a five-try victory over Italian side Viadana last weekend, had just three penalties to show for the efforts at half-time compared to two well-executed and converted tries from the top French side.
Centres Thomas Lombard, ironically the only France international player on the pitch, Simon Whatling and replacement Mark Tucker had all breached the Clermont back line but the support to turn possession into points was all too obviously lacking.
Clever use of replacements, including the big lock Tim Collier and Welsh youngster Quinnell, added momentum after the break though and Worcester soon began to force their way back into the match.
Worcester’s poor discipline record this season continued as the frustration at the French side’s spoiling of the fringe ball got the better of replacement hooker Chris Fortey on 61 minutes, and he was sin-binned for stamping on the chest of Clermont lock David Barrier.
There could be no argument with the decision made by Welsh referee James Jones and, when captain Alessandro Troncon quickly added his side’s third try from the resulting penalty, the game seemed completely out of Worcester’s reach.
Clermont’s fly-half Alexandre Peclier gained the bonus point with a further score 17 minutes later, but his side were starting to relax a little bit too early though, and when Welsh referee James Jones awarded a five-metre penalty in injury time, there was no stopping Quinnell.
"Before the game they would have looked at our position at the bottom of the Premiership compared to their second-place league standing and thought they’d put 40 points on us," said Brain. "I can’t blame them for that, they took us lightly and that’s their privilege.
" I feel we came off the pitch with respect today though and we’re pleased with the bonus point."
Although Worcester have yet to secure a league victory, the former Gloucester man is refusing to press the panic button at Sixways.
"Today was a good experience for us as we played without Pat Sanderson and Chris Horsman who were both away on international duty, and centre Dale Rasmussen who’s suspended," he said.
"We’ve got to go to Leicester in the Premiership next weekend and we’ll probably have five or six players to come into the starting line up so we’ll be stronger.
"We’re only five matches into a twenty-two match Premiership and we need to start gaining some points."
CLERMONT: Floch, Delasu, Combezou, Chanal, Esterhuizen, Peclier, Troncon (Moreau, 76), Longo, Etien, Dieude (Barthomeuf, 70), Vigouroux, Barrier (Bai, 66), Scelzo, Miguel (Falieres, 70), Domingo (Badel, 52). Replacements: Privat, Malzieu
WORCESTER: Best, Delport, Thomas, Lombard, Whatling (Tucker 22-27, 58-65), Garvey, Brown (Drahm, 62), Powell (Runciman, 75), Hickey, Collins (Quinnell, 54), Horstmann, Murphy, Blaze (Collier, 62), Taumoepeau (L Fortey, 40), Gotting (C Fortey, 54), Morris
Referee: James Jones (Wales).