6:31pm Sunday 13th April 2014
By Tom Guest
WITH time fast running out on Warriors’ stay in the Aviva Premiership, Dean Ryan must roll the dice.
While continuity of selection has been at the heart of the recent upturn in performances – if not results – I get the feeling that Warriors’ director of rugby is still playing it a little bit safe.
Unfortunately for him, Worcester’s desperate position at the foot of the table doesn’t afford the luxury of being risk-averse.
The midfield combination of Alex Grove and Ravai Fatiaki have been inked onto the team-sheet for most of the season, but Ryan needs to throw Andy Symons in from the start.
Although relatively untried at this level and coming back from an injury lay-off, the strong-running centre has already marked himself out as a game-breaker. Put it simply, things happen when he’s on the pitch.
He was the stand-out player against both his former club Leicester Tigers and Cardiff Blues in the LV= Cup and returned from a broken collar-bone to produce the solitary moment of class in a dire game at Newcastle to create Warriors’ first league win of the season.
Against Exeter on Saturday, he was finally summoned from the bench on 58 minutes and immediately gave Worcester a more threatening edge.
Both Grove and Fatiaki are, usually, reliable defenders, although the first-half horror-show against the Chiefs did not show either of them up in a good light.
However, as an attacking force they offer little more than a predictable crash-ball move in Fatiaki’s case and a pass on to his outside man with Grove. Neither of them have the turn-of-pace to exploit any gaps that may appear.
If Warriors are to have any chance of escaping the drop, which means picking up points at both The Rec and Allianz Park, they are going to need an added spark in their back-line and Symons could be the man to provide that.
Speaking of a spark in the back-line, Ryan Lamb is fast living up to the ‘maverick’ tag that has followed him throughout his well-travelled career.
You can make equalling compelling cases to say Lamb cost Worcester the win with his hair-brained decision-making or that they wouldn’t have got as close to pulling off what would have been a remarkable victory without his on-the-edge style of play.
On the downside, he kicked the ball dead twice to hand a massive impetus to Exeter, resulting on both occasions in tries for the visitors.
However, whenever Warriors did threaten Exeter, more often than not, Lamb was at the heart of the move, culminating in his superb miss-pass out wide to set up Lemi for his try in the corner.
Perhaps the one moment that perfectly encapsulated the brilliance and frustration of Lamb was when he tracked back to gather a loose ball with Exeter looking poised to score, before dancing away from the two would-be tacklers to avert the danger.
However, with the hard work done, he then threw a reckless pass to no-one inside his 22 and almost gifted the Chiefs the try he had moments earlier saved.
One thing’s for sure with Lamb, he offers a hell of a lot more to the team than the two previous incumbents of the number 10 jersey.
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