GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP: GLOUCESTER 6 WORCESTER 13
Worcester’s victory over Gloucester at Sixways last month went a long way to restoring the bond between the club’s failing team and its disillusioned supporters.
Most Warrior fans are prepared to forgive anything for a win over the hated enemy and that connection, strained so much for so long this season, will be stronger than ever after this historic outcome.
This was the first time Mike Ruddock’s men have beaten the Cherry and Whites at their Kingsholm fortress and their third consecutive success over these opponents. ‘Can we play you every week,’ they must think.
The same cannot be said for Gloucester whose embittered followers find themselves estranged from their players but more crucially their coaches.
This was their last home match of the season and could be Dean Ryan’s last time in charge this famous old stadium yet they could not rouse themselves.
But this evening was about Worcester, who were worthy winners. Their defence was magnificent once more as wave after wave of Gloucester attack foundered on the young rocks of Alex Grove, Tom Wood, Callum Black and Netani Talei.
The Fijian put in his best Premiership display of the season and while he was destructive in defence, his ball carrying was also up several notches on that produced in an otherwise disappointing campaign.
He also accounted for the game’s only try, just before half time when he outpaced a tired looking Mark Foster.
It was a first half of perfect simplicity for Worcester. Having spent the first 25 minutes without the ball they used the next quarter of an hour to mount four forays into enemy territory. Three of those assaults produced points.
By that stage Gloucester should have been well ahead, however. With Rob Debney providing his customarily unique insight at the breakdown the visitors conceded sufficient penalties for the Cherry and Whites to have built a potentially decisive advantage.
But on four occasions Gloucester opted to go for lineouts instead of goal. Sometimes they retained possession, sometimes they didn’t. Not once did they threaten Warriors’ rearguard.
They had to settle for three-points from the ever-reliable boot of Olly Barkley. It was a scant reward for the glut of quality ball Ryan’s men produced.
Bouyed by their hosts’ lack of penetration Worcester began to flex their own muscles and once more found joy around the fringes of the ruck.
An incursion by Rico Gear and Callum Black, powering through the middle, earned a penalty for hands in on 24 minutes. Willie Walker levelled the scores.
Gloucester failed to heed the warning and a neat reverse pass by Powell put Dale Rasmussen tip-toeing through to the line. The Samoan bobbed his way to within a couple of metres only for Scott Lawson to infringe.
That earned the hooker a yellow card and gave Warriors three more points.
And then came the sucker punch. Carlos Spencer, who had not been at Twickenham and had no reason to play like a dolt but nevertheless did, grubbed a kick behind the defence.
Incredibly the ball was scooped adroitly up by Greg Rawlinson and the giant lock turned on a family-sized sixpence and freed Talei.
The back row raced clear from 50m. Walker’s conversion, the last act of the half, made it 13-3.
If the opening period had been far from a thing of beauty, the second was pure ugly.
Once again Worcester had next to no possession, once again they frustrated the opposition to distraction.
Yellow cards flew like confetti, Wood, Rawlinson and Marco Bortolami all had ten minutes out and all Gloucester could muster, despite total domination at scrum and lineout time could not find a way through.
GLOUCESTER: Morgan; Watkins (Charples, 59), Simpson-Daniel, Barkley, Foster; Spencer, Cooper (R Lawson, 45); Dickinson, S Lawson (Azam, 45), Nieto (N Wood, 40), Eustace, Brown (Bortolami, 45), Narraway, Qera (Satala, 50), Delve. Replacement: Trinder
WORCESTER: Walker; Garvey, Grove, Rasmussen, Gear (Benjamin,60); Jones (Crichton, 18), Powell (Arr, 58); Black, Lutui (Fortey, 58), Morris (Ruwers, 79), Rawlinson, Kitchener, T Wood, Sanderson, Talei (Collins, 76). Replacement: Lyons.
Referee: Mr Rob Debney (RFU)