European Challenge Cup: Worcester 29 Brive 18
While Marcel Garvey was picking up the plaudits for his two-try blast that steered the Warriors into the last four of the European Challenge Cup, fellow wing wonder Miles Benjamin was already looking ahead to the semi-finals.
Garvey’s lightning pace took him to the try-line at both ends of this scintillating tie with Pat Sanderson and Alex Grove adding scores either side of the interval.
And with Brive unable to reproduce the form that has hoisted them into the top five of their tough domestic league, Worcester can now look forward to a trip to Bourgoin in the next round.
The sides are no strangers though having come face-to-face in the group stage of the competition. And it was in the first of these meetings in France that Benjamin broke his leg – an injury that was to sideline him for three months.
Now he is back in the side and cannot wait for a return trip across the Channel.
“I don’t get too superstitious about things,” he explained. “I remember breaking my leg in the Middlesex Sevens and couldn’t wait to get back there the following year. “These things happen and I’m just grateful to be back playing and being back in the team.
“I got my leg caught in the same position as when I broke the other one a couple of years ago – it just got stuck in the turf. Strangely there was no pain or shock because I knew exactly what I had done.
“We put it in a plaster over there but fortunately my Dad is a GP and my next door neighbour is a surgeon who did my last leg. I called him from the hospital bed in France and said: ‘Sorry, I’ve done it again! Can you prepare me for theatre tomorrow?’”
Even though Benjamin’s Bourgoin experience was cut short, he knows enough to recognise they will pose a tough test, especially with the promise of a Heineken Cup place on offer to the eventual champions.
“Bourgoin are like Brive – a very physical side. You think you have got a good shot on them and they just ride the tackle and offload. They are always looking to play rugby and are physical at the breakdown. You have to be right on your mettle and don’t think that just because they like to play a different style of rugby that they are not just as confrontational.
“Everyone in these French sides look comfortable with the ball in hand and they want the ball. They all have confidence in their own ability to throw it around. You have to be ready for the unexpected whereas in the Premiership, if you do your homework it can often pay off.”
The unexpected was certainly in evidence at Sixways as the Warriors capitalised on a series of errors served up by their below-par visitors.
Garvey’s first try on 12 minutes following the French side’s inability to control the ball in the ruck while Grove ran in at the start of the second half to ground a Matthew Jones penalty. The kick flew wide of the posts but with the visitors seemingly happy to stand around soaking up the sun, the young Warriors centre darted in.
A try in each half from Ronnie Cooke kept Brive, complete with World Cup winners Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson, in contention until Garvey wrapped up the win with a scorching run through a packed defence to score his side’s fourth ten minutes from time.
Benjamin believes Worcester could repeat last year’s feat of reaching the final and possibly go one better.
“As a team we have suffered a lot with injuries and that is the same for me. It is nice to have some people coming back from injury now and that gives us the opportunity to go out and test teams. Hopefully we can do that come the semi-final and final.
“I think we can go one better than last year. We have a lot of players who are hitting form right now – people like Marcel who is running tries in for fun. He is coming through and, in people like Jonny Arr, there are a group of keen and hungry players who want the opportunity to play in these big games.”
In the other semi-final, Saracens will play Northampton.
Worcester: Gear, Garvey, Grove, Rasmussen (Crichton, 75), Benjamin, Jones, Powell (Arr, 75); Black, Lutui (Fortey, 61), Morris (Ruwers, 74), Rawlinson, Bowley (Kitchener, 69), Wood, Sanderson, Horstmann (Talei, 11). Replacement: Carlisle.
Brive: Davies, Palisson, Cooke, Johnston (Hufanga, 72), Cohen, Goode (Spedding, 35), Pejoine (Pic, 53); Kinchagishvili, Bonrepaux, (Thompson, 47) Idieder (Capdevielle, 49), van Zyl, Browne, Manta (Vosloo, 47), Forgues, Popham. Replacement: Short.
Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland).