The league points are long gone but Worcester's sense of injustice still burns at the yellow card meted out to skipper Pat Sanderson midway through their loss to London Wasps.

The 32-17 defeat at the Causeway Stadium means Warriors' Premiership survival fight must be taken to the last match of the season, at home to Northampton, but after putting on a gallant display against the English and European champions there still stands a question of what might have been.

Worcester eventually succumbed to three tries in the last 20 minutes of Sunday ' s gripping encounter but until that time they had been in with a good chance of salvaging a loss bonus at the very least.

With 56 minutes gone they were tied 10-10 and, but for a dropped dolly from Thomas Lombard, could have led by seven points when referee Sean Davey sin-binned Sanderson for hands in a ruck.

During the banishment of their talismanic captain the visitors conceded 17 points, two converted tries and a penalty, and were effectively out of the contest by the time he returned.

Director of rugby John Brain highlighted the incident as decisive and questioned whether the card should have been shown at all.

Last night, having watched the video of the match, he remained unimpressed, saying: "We have looked at the incident and the key thing is that the referee is contending that there were several warnings given out prior to it. "Our players do not seem to be aware of them, if there were any they don't seem to have heard them, so there must be a question of the legitimacy of the yellow card."

Because Sanderson was cautioned for a technical offence there is no question of Worcester having leave to appeal the decision, so they are left to cogitate on another lost opportunity to put more

vital points on the board.

For his part Wasps director of rugby Warren Gatland believes that if the Sixways side do finish bottom despite a massively promising first season there should be no doubt about relegation.

He said: "Unless they are going to ring-fence it, which I don't think they are, they should keep promotion and relegation going as far as I am concerned.

"Whoever comes up you should let them up because there is a good chance they are going to go straight down again and that way you can protect yourselves," the New Zealander said although he did express sympathy for the unfortunate club, which could still be any one of five.

"Whoever goes down you feel sorry for because you win seven or eight games, nearly half your matches, in the championship and there is a chance you are going to get relegated. That is going to make it tough for whoever goes down."

He also conveyed his admiration for how Worcester refused to bow to his side despite a blistering opening quarter of an hour during which they threatened to overwhelm their guests.

He said: "We had them on the ropes for a while and it looked like they were going to crack but they kept going.

"I was really happy with that first 15 minutes, we really played with pace and power but Worcester really hung in there.

"Most teams would have given up, I thought they might have started thinking about Northampton in a couple of weeks time but they didn't do that." n Leicester Tigers captain Martin Johnson is to appear before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel in Coventry next Monday.

The former England captain has accumulated three yellow cards for foul play this season - for two offences of striking an opponent in Premiership matches against Northampton Saints at Welford Road on September 25, and at Franklin's Gardens on February 26, and for fighting in the match against Saracens at Vicarage Road last Sunday.