10:18pm Friday 21st March 2014
By Tom Guest
WARRIORS’ Aviva Premiership survival hopes suffered a gut-wrenching hammer blow at Sixways tonight as Andy Goode’s last-kick conversion stole a 13-11 win for Wasps.
The hosts were within seconds of a vital victory that would have given them a slim hope of staying up, but prop Jake Cooper-Woolley’s last-gasp try levelled the scores and former Worcester favourite Goode added the killer blow.
Dean Ryan’s men had been good value for what would have been their first league victory of the season but, true to form, they weren’t able to see the job through.
David Lemi proved he’s not past it, as suggested by relegation rivals Newcastle’s boss Dean Richards in the week, with a superb touchline run to set up the impressive Sam Betty for a score that helped give Warriors an 11-6 lead.
However, as the game wore on, the hosts became edgy and Goode sparked Wasps’ late revival by setting up the attack that ultimately led to the heartbreaking score.
For once, Warriors started well, winning an early turn-over and piling pressure on Wasps with Chris Pennell going close to scoring, but the visitors managed to hack the ball clear.
The opening 40 minutes were a tense affair with neither side stringing together long spells of cohesive rugby.
However, Warriors battled well and gained parity in the set-pieces, with Euan Murray getting one over on former Warrior Matt Mullan by winning a penalty at the game’s first scrum.
Although it was on the angle and a good 45 metres out, full-back Chris Pennell struck the ball superbly and it sailed through the posts to open the scoring.
The Worcester talisman took confidence from that effort and tried twice more from similar range in the opening half, but was unable to find the target to give his side some breathing space.
Warriors turned the screw at a line-out deep in Wasps’ territory and Jonny Arr was able to get through and charge down the clearance, forcing his opposite number Joe Simpson to scramble the ball into touch by the corner flag.
From the resulting line-out, the home pack battered close to the line and looked set to score, but the resolute visitors gradually drove them backwards until Ryan Lamb was forced to try a drop-goal, which was off target.
Murray was then on the receiving end of referee Andrew Small’s whistle for not rolling away and Goode did what he does best by drilling the ball between the sticks to square the contest.
The half ended with Pennell’s second missed effort at goal and things took a turn for the worse as the second period began with Goode nudging Wasps ahead with another penalty.
Worcester won a kickable penalty, but the call was made to go for the corner and it backfired as James Haskell soon wrapped up Ravai Fatiaki in a choke tackle and secured the turn-over to let Wasps off the hook.
Lemi then produced his dazzling footwork down the left flank to evade challengers and, although he was hauled down short of the line, Betty followed up excellently to bag the crucial score.
The conversion was missed, but Warriors had the momentum and, when replacement hooker Carlo Festuccia collared Fatiaki with a high tackle, Lamb made it 11-6 with the penalty.
Ultimately, though, it wasn’t enough and Wasps made it 17 defeats out of 17 for Worcester this season in brutal fashion. Rugby can be a cruel game, as Warriors’ fans know all too well.
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