Matthew Jones has been the subject of no little ribbing at Sixways following a goal-kicking display at Sale Sharks so inconsistent it might have cost his team a precious Premiership victory.
Thankfully it didn’t come to that and even though their fly half missed five of his nine attempts – two in front of the posts – Worcester held on to a 17-9 win that lifted them well up the table.
But even that fact and a hastily-issued apology to director of rugby Mike Ruddock has not saved the 24-year-old from the friendly savaging at the hands of his team-mates. Even the coaching staff have got in on the act. “What have we done about Matthew’s kicking?” head coach Clive Griffiths asked rhetorically this week. “We’ve widened the goal-posts.” The former Doncaster supremo then went on to jest that Jones had been drunk at Edgeley Park.
It is just as well, therefore, Jones has a thick skin. So thick in fact that not even a barely credible 44th-minute miss, from well inside the Sale 22, and a botched conversion attempt a few minutes later could deter him from trying again from inside his own half with a quarter of an hour to go. Everything suggested another errant attempt.
And so it came to pass. Jones was several metres short. But when his side really needed another score towards the end of the game he came up with not one but two. That sort of faith in his own ability has established the young man as a favourite in the Sixways hearts.
He gets another chance to build on that reputation tonight as beleaguered Newcastle visit the Midlands looking to exorcise the ghost of their last encounter when they were smashed 51-10 on the final day of last season.
Things haven’t got much better for the Kingston Park outfit since. Only one league win this term points to pre-season predictions of a relegation being entirely accurate.
Jones will do his best to deepen the gloom. “I am going to miss, it’s about how I come back from it,” he said. “I am confident that the next one I have will go through the posts.
“We got the win but I was bitterly disappointed to have missed those kicks. I think it’s been going well all season, hopefully that’s it out of the way.
“The first one I missed I thought the strike was a nice one but it went left. There were one or two that I didn’t strike so well but the others were OK, they just weren’t going over.
“I am not going to worry because if you do it plays on your mind. As I have grown up and played more games I tend not to let if affect me so much. When you are younger it’s in your head all the time. Now I feel ‘It’s happened, let’s get on with it, put it right in the training park and then it’ll be a thing of the past’.”
Many kickers, especially fly halves, have allowed travails in front of the posts to affect their game. When playing for Pertemps Bees, ex Worcester No 10 Tim Walsh went from impudent play-making sprite to appearing even smaller than his already small 5ft 7in physique when he seemingly couldn’t hit a barn door with a cow’s rear end.
Jones doesn’t seem nearly so prone to angst. “Did I feel like ducking them? If I am honest that is a very rare occasion when that happens. There is never an opportunity when I don’t want to take a kick. You want to make amends - that’s what I did. If there was a penalty opportunity I wanted a go.”
He punished Brent Cockbain for tackling him late – in the 67th minute – and with eight left exacted revenge when Craig Gillies was taken out in the air.
After that first Premiership success since mid-September Warriors seek a second in sub-zero temperatures this evening. The only team change is enforced - Matt Powell comes in at scrum half for Ryan Powell. Even dynamic hooker Aleki Lutui must settle for a place on the bench behind Chris Fortey.