GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP: Saracens 19 Worcester Warriors 6
All that separated Worcester from the thorough beating their flaccid performance deserved was the errant right boot of Saracens' goal-kicker Glen Jackson.
Had the mercurial fly half been successful with each of his nine attempts - and they were comfortably positioned for him to have been exactly that - Mike Ruddock's team would have leaked 31 points.
They could have had no arguments, either, indeed it would have been a more accurate reflection of the disparity between two sides, one chasing a place in the end-of-season play-off jamboree, the other chasing its tail.
Quite simply, Worcester were wretched and only in the dying seconds did they threaten their hosts' try-line when a loss bonus was still a possibility. Fittingly they were turned over - as they were for most of the game, and justice was done.
When they had possession they either lost it or kicked it away and when they had field position - which wasn't too often - a set piece would misfire or they would run out of options. To be beaten by a better side is one thing, to help them do it - by missing touch with three penalties - is criminally negligent. The green shoot of recovery was trampled in a rickety old stadium.
Ruddock was more than disappointed with his side's showing. "We did not play well," the director of rugby said. "I don't think they played to their best level and we certainly did not play to the level we have got. We slipped into some old bad habits, our basics let us down, we had turnovers and our discipline was not good enough."
Ruddock cited a seven-two first-half penalty count against his team as a contributory factor and also believed the difference between the sides came when they were each a man light. He said: "The crucial moment was when Saracens had their player in the bin and we did not score a try but when we had Pat Sanderson yellow-carded they did - ultimately that try proved to be the difference between the two teams.
"But it's not a huge setback. The players are an angry group of men who did not play as well as they can. They are not pleased with themselves and we coaches are not pleased with them. They will use that as a motivator."
They needed a motivator yesterday. From the first whistle Saracens demonstrated more power up front and greater incision in the threequarters - quite how they finished the period with only two penalties and a 6-3 lead only they will know.
They could do far worse than start their search somewhere in Jackson's vicinity. Normally so accurate with his place-kicking, he squandered his side's dominance with three misses from his five attempts, a couple of them on the embarrassing side of absolute howlers. Another poor one came in the second half.
Worcester will claim their defensive fortitude was the other important variable, indeed it might have been because if one were looking for positives from the visitors it was the only one.
Sam Tuitupou was the leader of that rearguard action. The former All Black produced a Herculean effort by any definition - that he did not sleep on Saturday night because of a urine infection does him even more credit.
Strangely, it was actually Worcester who took
the lead. Saracens were disinclined to claim the opening kick-off and, as a result, found themselves defending a lineout in their own 22.
Having got nowhere with their driven maul, Matt Powell fired the ball back to Loki Crichton whose sweetly-struck drop goal split the uprights. Only 80 seconds had elapsed.
It was another half-hour before they got away from their own line, however. Vyvyan thought he'd scored in the fifth minute only for Adam Powell's pass to be ruled forward and soon after that Jackson spurned his first opportunity from close in. A second chance, further out but straighter, presented itself in the tenth minute and this time he levelled.
Although Alan Gaffney's men had a string of attacking scrums they could not find a way across and were eventually scrambling desperately when Rico Gear burst from deep in his own territory to the Sarries 22.
Penney committed the most cynical of offsides as Powell tried to capitalise and was rightly binned. Crichton should have exacted further retribution but sliced his penalty across the face of the posts.
The only other points of the half came ten minutes before the break when Tevita Taumoepeau was spotted boring in. At last Jackson found the target for 6-3.
Jackson and Crichton swapped goals just after the restart but the telling score came with Sanderson in the cooler.
Adam Powell sent Brent Russell charging to the line. The South African was hauled down but the defensive line had shattered and Powell gave Fabio Ongaro an easy run in. Jackson added the conversion and another penalty to complete what should have been a rout.
SARACENS: Russell (Thrower, 56); Haughton, Penney, A Powell, Leonelli; Jackson, Dickens (Rauluni, 72); Lloyd, Ongaro, Visagie (Mercey, 70), Jack, Vyvyan, Chesney (Ryder, 63), Hill, Skirving (Gustard, 53). Replacements not used: Kyriacou, Ross. WORCESTER: Delport (Pennell, 72); Gear, Rasmussen, Tuitupou, Benjamin; Crichton (Brown, 67), M Powell (R Powell, 57); Morris (Black, 74), Lutui, Taumoepeau (Mullan, 63), Rawlinson, Gillies (Bowley, 67), Wood (Talei, 57), Sanderson, Horstmann. Referee: A Small (RFU).