Stephen Myler kicked the Saints to a fourth straight win, but the fly half’s six penalties almost weren’t enough as Sixways served up another heart stopping Aviva Premiership finish.
In truth, the four points were deservedly Saints’, a raft of Worcester penalties in the mid-section of the game providing a handy lead, one they almost threw away in similar fashion to last year’s opening day defeat on the same ground.
This time, though, the last-gasp Warriors kick went astray and the men in black, green and gold held on for another tense victory.
The two sides traded early penalties before Ryan Mills’ break made for a simple finish for Dean Hammond to open the try scoring, referee Greg Macdonald happy to award the try after conferring with the TMO for a hit that ended Sam Dickinson’s evening in the build-up.
Had Jamie Elliott collected a Stephen Myler cross kick, Saints could well have been level, but the ball evaded the flying winger, Lee Dickson’s quick tap also agonisingly close to coming off before he was dragged down short.
Their frustrations might well have grown when Christian Day’s lineout steal sat kindly for the hosts, who then launched a sweeping counter from their own 10m line. Jonny Arr’s knock on at the base provided welcome relief and from the resulting scrum a series of penalties took the Saints upfield, where patient phase-play allowed Myler to clip over a simple three-pointer to reduce the arrears.
While a 15-minute break followed, Tom Kessell’s super sharp break up the blindside of a scrum meant the pressure stayed on after the resumption and with Ben Nutley also twice involved in the move, the two replacements had forced the Warriors into another offence.
This time, Ryan Mills saw yellow for the totting up of offences and Myler guided over the points to hand the Saints a first lead of the evening, one he extended when Kessell exploited space in behind with an intelligent long kick that eventually pressured the home side into conceding yet another penalty.
Despite losing the sin bin period 6-0, Worcester dug in and on Mills’ return the Warriors cranked up the heat on their visitors. Bryce Heem almost went around the outside and moments later the TMO denied Val Rapava Ruskin’s close range effort.
Saints dug in their heels, first turning over the five-metre scrum that followed and then dragging down Hammond just metres short, eventually clearing their lines with a huge boot downfield. With territory back under their belts, two well judged box kicks from Kessell came back on the Saints’ side and the pack powered through for a sixth three pointer of the night for Myler - the gap between the sides growing to two scores for the first time.
That should have been enough, even when Bryce Heem surged over on the right with the clock showing less than a minute to play. Yet when Calum Clark took exception to a Worcester player’s shove on the way to the celebrations, his reaction warranted a yellow card and penalty restart.
Deja vous it wasn’t, however. Shillcock, who had added the touchline conversion, made a good fist of the 50-metre penalty, but on this night it wasn’t to be.
3mins WORCS Pen Shillcock 3-0
9mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-3
11mins WORCS Try Hammond Con Shillcock 10-3
15mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler
33mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-6
38mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-9
HALF-TIME WORCS 10-9 SAINTS
45mins WORCS Yellow Mills
46mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-12
51mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-15
75mins SAINTS Pen Myler 10-18
78mins WORCS Try Heem Con Shillcock 17-18
80mins WORCS Miss pen Shillcock
FULL-TIME WORCS 17-18 SAINTS
Pennell; Hammond, Olivier, Mills, Vuna; Shillcock, Arr; Rapava Ruskin, Annett, Schonert, O’Callaghan, Barry, Potgieter, Kirwan, Dowson (capt)
Singleton, Leleimalefaga, Daniels, Kitchener, Cox, Dowsett, Adams, Heem
Foden; Elliott, Burrell, Hutchinson, Wilson; Myler, Dickson; A Waller, Haywood, Brookes, Paterson, Day, Gibson, Clark, Dickinson (capt)
Clare, E Waller, Denman, Craig, Nutley, Kessell, Olver, Collins