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Leicester Tigers 43, Worcester Warriors 13
THE signs were abundantly clear well before Andy Goode’s hair-raising lunge into Tom Croft’s face that Warriors were going to struggle to take anything from Welford Road.
That particular battle may well have been emphatically lost, but there is still a war to be won — starting a week on Saturday when Exeter Chiefs come to Sixways.
While Goode will rightly be lambasted for his brainless actions on his former stomping ground, the fact he may well not play again this season through suspension could resonate right to the end of the campaign.
With understudy Joe Carlisle still in plaster with a broken thumb, if the RFU decide Goode will be kicking his heels for the rest of this term, Worcester will be short-handed in the key role of fly-half.
In fairness to Danny Gray, he looks an able performer in the number 10 jersey, but whether he has the experience to steer the Warriors ship in tough home games with Exeter and then London Irish, as well as the final-day-of-the-season trip to Northampton Saints remains to be seen.
That aside, who will be the replacement stand-off on the bench? Carlisle’s younger brother Tom is probably next in line, but he’s hardly featured for the ‘A’ team, let alone in the glare of the Aviva Premiership.
So, while Goode’s reckless red card against Tigers probably didn’t change the result at Welford Road — Leicester were always well in control against 15 men, let alone 14, and looked likely to run in a bonus point victory — it could well make the difference between Worcester finishing with a flourish or a whimper.
That in turn might well have long-reaching connotations too. If Richard Hill’s men could conclude their season in style with some try-laden triumphs, they would take a real confidence boost into pre-season and could kick on again next term towards the Holy Grail of Heineken Cup rugby.
Conversely, lacking the direction their senior fly-half provides, Warriors may falter and stumble through their remaining games to a lowly league finish, which could be detrimental to their longer-term ambitions.
Obviously, this is all mere speculation and Goode is just one cog in what has, at times this season, been a well-oiled Worcester machine, which might well be strong enough to cover for his possible absence.
Although Hill has rotated Goode and Carlisle senior at fly-half, it is undeniable that Warriors are at their best when the former England man is in the driving seat.