European Challenge Cup: Petrarca Padova 6 Worcester Warriors 55
The Worcester Warriors say they’re using the European Challenge Cup to build confidence and prepare themselves for their ultimate goal of playing in the Heineken Cup.
They certainly showed that they’re almost ready for the top level in the first 60 minutes of this game against Petrarca but the match which started so strongly finished as a scrappy and frustrating affair. Still, the Warriors will be happy with a nine-try victory in their first trip to Europe this season.
They started their scoring after only three minutes as Alex Grove finished off the move he had started by powering over in the corner. Matthew Jones converted but Petrarca came back straight away with a penalty in the 22.
The experienced international Ludovic Mercier missed but he started the home side’s scoring seven minutes later as he kicked one through the posts.
At 7-3 this was the first and last time in the game that the Italian side would get anywhere near Worcester and, even with a slow finish to the match, it was one-way traffic from then on.
Worcester’s second try came from the Australian international full back Chris Latham. He admitted afterwards that he was reminded of being back home in Brisbane as he played in the autumn sunshine, and he proved it as he looked totally relaxed and in control throughout the game.
Matthew Jones missed the conversion but the fly half had more to worry about minutes later as he was given a yellow card for talking back to the referee and spent the next 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
Being down to 14 men seemed to revitalise the Warriors instead of punishing them, though, as both Alex Grove and Chris Latham added their second try apiece. Latham, kicking in Jones’ absence, also added a conversion to give Worcester a 24-6 lead. Ludovic Mercier added a second penalty for Petrarca on 35 minutes but they had no answer to the pace of Worcester’s attack.
Time and time again quick hands from the entire Worcester squad stretched the Petrarca defence one way and then the other until holes emerged. Further tries from Charlie Fellows and Sam Tuitupou plus two further conversions from Matthew Jones gave Worcester a 38-6 lead at half time and left Petrarca just trying to limit the damage.
Rico Gear started the second half where his team had left off as he ran in the seventh try. Gear was starting his first game after a month out with injury and looked rusty early on as he dropped a couple of passes. But he showed that he is eager to get back as he drove over under a heap of Worcester forwards.
With the heat starting to take its toll on both sets of players, most of the replacements were thrown on early on in the half but they failed to stop the match filtering out with a whimper rather than a bang. The highlight was Worcester’s eighth try on 54 minutes which gave Latham his first hat-trick in a Warriors shirt.
To be fair to Petrarca, the lack of tries in the final 20 minutes was as much to do with their change in tactics as the heat affecting the players.
They ditched the kicking game in favour of keeping the ball away from Worcester with set-piece rugby, which makes you wonder why it took eight tries against them to make them try something different. Worcester were determined to have the last say, though, and Greg Rawlinson ran 30 metres on his own up the sidelines to touch down try number nine for the visitors.
PETRARCA PADOVA: Mercier; Innocenti, Rosa, Bertetti, Spragg; Little, Pastormerlo (Billot, 50); Caporello (Gastaldi, 50), Giovanchelli, Matteralia (Paoletti, 50), Domolailai (Stoltz, 46), Padra, Derbyshire, Galatro, Ansell (Acuna, 28). Replacements: Gatto, Bezzati.
WORCESTER WARRIORS: Latham; Gear, Grove, Tuitupou (Carlisle, 45), Fellows (Crichton, 45); Jones, Powell (Powell, 45); Morris (Black, 45), Fortey (Lutui, 44), Taumoepeau, (Ruwers, 45) Kitchener (Rawlinson, 61), Gillies, Wood, Cox, Talei.
Referee: Rosich (France)