RFU Championship: Worcester 30 Doncaster 28
Andy Goode’s last second penalty meant Worcester made it five wins from five, but for agitated Warriors’ fans, the final 20 minutes was car-crash rugby.
After romping into a 17-point lead in as many minutes, Richard Hill’s side made a succession of basic errors that allowed Doncaster to claw themselves back into contention by the hour mark.
The lead then changed hands four times in the final quarter, as the Knights’ growing belief, and a sublime kicking display from former Moseley fly half Tristan Roberts, brought the rank outsiders within touching distance of a famous win.
Fittingly, it was man of the match Jake Abbott who rescued things for the Warriors. With seconds remaining, and the Knights protecting a one-point lead, Abbott’s burst caught the visitors offside under their own posts, and Goode gratefully accepted the point-blank, match-clinching penalty with the final kick of the match.
Head coach Richard Hill admitted afterwards that he thought the match was lost in the dying moments, and that his side had under-performed.
He said: “The first 20 minutes were outstanding, but the last 60 were very disappointing.
“Doncaster’s forwards got into the game, and made life very difficult for us, especially at the scrum, where we conceded too many penalties.
“We played a get out of jail card at the end, although some credit must go to the players and, bizarrely, we have come out with a bonus point win.
“At 17-0, the players started throwing the ball around, and made far too many mistakes. We must perform against the mid-table sides, rather than just waiting for the likes of London Welsh and Bedford, so there is a little bit of attitude that needs sorting out.”
With Worcester looking purposeful from the outset, it was no surprise when winger Miles Benjamin opened their account in the seventh minute. The flyer was left with a routine finish after Alex Crockett broke 50 metres down the left.
Goode converted, and the former England fly half soon added an angled 30 metre penalty after the Knights were shunted off their own scrum ball.
He was quickly back in action, in support of a storming run from centre Dale Rasmussen. Goode’s sharp line break and offload released Irish flanker Neil Best for a first try in Warriors’ colours, which the fly half converted.
After a lack of second quarter accuracy from the Warriors, Doncaster’s first spell of sustained pressure brought them an unexpected score on the half hour.
Three penalties in quick succession pinned the Warriors their own 22 and, after the visitors opted for a close-range scrum, captain Neil Cochrane forced his way over, leaving Roberts with an easy conversion.
Doncaster opened the second half with real belief, and soon narrowed the gap to three points with another close-range converted try. At a Warriors defensive line out, the Knights turned them over, and replacement back rower Andy Boyle was driven over.
This stung the Warriors into life, and all-action flanker Abbott twice swapped passes with scrum half Jonny Arr, before ending a sweeping 60 metre move by putting Willie Walker in the corner.
As the game opened up, Crockett ended a threatening Doncaster attack by taking out a support runner off the ball, and he was duly despatched to the sin bin. Roberts kicked the resulting penalty and, after Warriors lock Graham Kitchener was penalised, another superbly struck 45 metre kick closed the deficit to three points, 15 minutes from time.
Doncaster capitalised on Crockett’s absence following another turnover. This time, winger Matt Williams scorched 35 metres into the corner after possession was spilled in midfield.
Worcester finally built a spell of pressure, and duly regained the lead when Abbott touched down for the bonus point. But, with five minutes remaining, the game was far from finished.
First, Roberts kicked another superb long-range penalty, before a last-gasp attack, led by the outstanding Abbott, left Goode to deliver the coup de grace.
tries: Benjamin, Best, Walker, Abbott;
conversions: Goode (2);
penalties: Goode (2).
tries: Cochrane, Boyle, Williams;
conversions: Roberts (2);
penalties: Roberts (3).