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A best ever Premiership start, but late Warriors fightback scares Saints

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Having racked up five tries and a 34-point lead in the first hour, somehow the Saints managed to ship four scores at the other end in a frantic 16-minute spell that saw Worcester head home with two bonus points.


But while there will be plenty of contemplation about the fourth quarter nothing can take away the simple fact that this bonus point win meant that Saints have got off to their best ever start to a Premiership season.


At some point Saints are going to play for a full 80 minutes, and if they can extend the performance of the first hour until the final whistle then they are going to be a very difficult side for anyone else in Aviva Premiership Rugby.


Once again the pack was in dominant form, having their way over the heavyweight Worcester starting eight. Meanwhile out wide there were impressive performances from debutant full back James Wilson and centre Luther Burrell, whose two tries earned him the Travis Perkins man of the match award.


Burrell went over twice in the space of five minutes, firstly as the beneficiary of a peach of a pass from Wilson, then making the most of a stretched defence after Saints had forced a turnover in the visitors' 22.


Six minutes later Saints were three tries to the good, Vasily Artemyev providing the finishing touch after superb approach play from Rhys Oakley and Phil Dowson off the scrum base.


Stephen Myler's 10 points took the half-time lead out to 25-3, but had Worcester made the most of their own opportunities they would have been very much in the contest.


Semisi Taulava and Aleki Lutui maintained their season form as the Warriors' top carriers - number eight Taulava regularly coming from deep into the back line to add speed to his bulk in an attempt to rupture the Saints' defence - and the ever-dangerous David Lemi was always looking for space out wide.


But when they got within sight of the home whitewash it was either a fumble, or a penalty, or simple inaccuracies at the lineout which meant that they could not turn position into points.


This was as true in the first five minutes of the second half as it had been throughout the first and was compounded when Saints finished off their first serious attack of the third quarter with a fourth try, Courtney Lawes going over by the sticks to mark his first start in the black, green and gold since February.


Mike Haywood was next to score, burrowing over in the far corner on the hour mark, but the fifth score should have belonged to Burrell, who spurned his hat trick by cutting inside when it seemed simpler to score out wide.


Regardless, at 37-3 the situation was very comfortable and the 12,114 present were enjoying their team's play as much as the autumn sunshine.


But then Worcester brought on their replacements, threw off the shackles and started to play. And how!


Every piece of possession became an opportunity to throw the ball around, and with Saints starting to slip off the tackles there were gaps appearing across the park where there had been none before.


Jonny Arr and Josh Matavesi both went over in the space of two minutes to get the ball rolling. Despite this there was still a healthy home lead, but it now seemed that nerves were starting to affect the Saints' play.


Ryan Lamb missed a straightforward touchfinder which would have given his pack a lineout five metres out from the home line, and Wilson's neat chip and chase was ruined completely when a wild pass in the next phase handed the ball straight back to Worcester.


This profligacy was punished by Josh Drauniniu six minutes from time, and although replacement hooker Ollie Hayes found himself at the bottom of a lineout drive in the last play of the game it fell to Andy Goode to land the conversion which earned his team a second bonus point.


Needless to say the question "what would have happened if the game had lasted five minutes more" came up in the post-match press conference. But that is mere speculation, and while yes, there will be an inquest into what happened towards the end of the game, nothing can take away another five points at Franklin's Gardens.


TIMELINE

4mins WORCS Pen Goode 0-3

6mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-3

11mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-3

19mins SAINTS Try Burrell Con Myler 13-3

22mins WORCS Miss pen Goode

24mins SAINTS Try Burrell Con Myler 20-3

30mins SAINTS Try Artemyev 25-3

HALF-TIME SAINTS 25 WORCESTER 3

49mins SAINTS Try Lawes Con Myler 32-3

60mins SAINTS Try Haywood 37-3

64mins WORCS Try Arr Con Goode 37-10

66mins WORCS Try Matavesi Con Goode 37-17

74mins WORCS Try Drauniniu Con Goode 37-24

80mins WORCS Try Hayes Con Goode 37-31

FULL-TIME SAINTS 37 WORCESTER 31