Worcester 15 Gloucester 15

This time 12 months ago Newcastle Falcons won comfortably at Sixways prompting their director of rugby, Rob Andrew, to warn Worcester that they would not win matches in the Premiership by kicking penalties.

Perhaps the only thing yesterday's error-strewn local derby showed is that Warriors are both a year older and wiser and have progressed far enough to draw matches with the boot alone.

Apart from that the scoreboard suggested a stalemate and that's exactly what it was - stale. The skill factor was not especially high, the penalty count was. Here were two teams with a large number of early-season wrinkles to iron out.

Neither John Brain nor Dean Ryan were particularly happy with the way their sides played and on reflection pitching two local rivals against each in the campaign's first match was probably not such a good idea. Ryan thought not.

With Bristol and Bath, Leicester and Northampton and Wasps and Saracens all playing each other he opined the thinking behind a plethora of local derbies might have been flawed.

"It puts a lot of pressure on people, including referees," the Cherry and Whites' head coach said. "There were five or six potentially firecracking games on the same weekend and one referee in charge of a Tri Nations match [Chris White] - we have not got many [referees].

"There is a lot more to it than just fronting up to local rivals and saying it's OK. Potentially it needs to be looked at.

"Yes it produces revenue, yes it's a good start to the season but if it doesn't produce a complete product then maybe we have got to revisit it."

He certainly had a point. Both teams seemed more anxious not to lose the match than they were to win it - hence all 30 points were kicked.

Gloucester were really disappointing. Having signed England World Cup centre Mike Tindall, Ludovic Mercier and scrum-half Peter Richards and stuck them in midfield with the inventive Henry Paul, it was not unreasonable to expect more adventure.

But, as Ryan said, they were sucked into the mauling, brawling game that Warriors favour. "We were under no illusions to what we would face at Worcester. We're disappointed, however, that we didn't problem-solve a bit better."

Not as disappointed as the 9,700 people who paid to watch it. Nor indeed as let down as the punter who had the ticket with the correct name of the final try-scorer printed on it.

The owner would have won a single pint of Guinness but, since neither side managed to string more than three phases together, the goal-line was never seriously threatened and the prize went unclaimed. How appropriate. On the positive side, Worcester appear to have lost none of their potency at the scrum.

Tighthead Chris Horsman was a wrecking ball at the set-piece and might have had an even greater impact had referee Ashley Rowden allowed the competition to develop instead of blowing up at every second scrummage.

That neutered Worcester's most likely source of joy and stymied any rhythm that threatened to break out.

Instead both set-pieces were a mish-mash of whistle and infringements.

Which is why both teams had to look to their kickers to decide the match. Mercier drew first blood with a snappy drop goal after three minutes and made it 6-0 shortly afterwards as the hosts made the meekest of starts.

It is uncharacteristic to see Worcester back off any visitors to Sixways, so quite why they took so long to tear into their closest neighbours is difficult to say.

It was an opening that frustrated Brain. "We probably took 30 minutes to believe that we could actually beat Gloucester," the director of rugby said.

"You can't waste half an hour against them and find yourself 6-0 down. We gave away too many penalties in the first period and we didn't get going quickly enough."

When they did manage to get their hands on the ball they began to dictate proceedings and should have had more than three James Brown penalties to show for their dominance of possession.

They might have but for three botched line-outs deep into Gloucester territory. Two jumpers were missed and the ball was lost in contact once more. This was not the Worcester of the past eight months.

With the final action of the first period Mercier levelled at 9-9 with a massive placekick from inside his own half, although Brown restored the three-point advantage immediately after the restart.

Two more for Gloucester's French fly-half and one for the 27-year-old Brown, his final contribution before yielding to Shane Drahm, and the game was level.

Mercier nearly won it with a long dropped goal attempt that lacked the legs while Drahm missed with one last stab from five metres within his own territory.

Mr Rowden's most popular whistle was his last and a record Sixways crowd drifted away looking forward to the rematch in seven short months.

Let's hope things have improved by then.