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MATCH REPORT Pack reigns supreme at Sixways

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Although the game kicked off in beautiful sunshine, underfoot the Sixways pitch was still under the influence of the inches and inches of snow and rain that have swamped the west midlands this winter.


Despite this both teams complemented their big packs with attacking back lines, and with Lee Dickson clearing his lines from the kick off it fell to Worcester to show their hand first.


Andy Goode looked to spread the ball wide in a repeat of the tactics which had paid dividends in the last 20 minutes at Franklin's Gardens, but it was a lucky bounce of the ball which opened up the Saints, allowing Josh Drauniniu to go for the line.


Ben Foden's superb tackle prevented the try, forcing a fumble in the process, but the pressure stayed on and when Saints infringed at a lineout Goode opened the scoring from the tee.


The fly half doubled Worcester's points tally two minutes later from just inside his own half, but if Saints were feeling any pressure it didn't show. A turnover allowed Stephen Myler to put Jamie Elliott away down the left wing, with Soane Tonga'uiha coming closest to the line a couple of phases later.


Worcester held out, and received another boost when Tom Mercey was penalised for pulling down a Saints put-in midway between the home 10 and 22-metre lines. Goode cleared midway inside the visitors' half, but Saints first won the lineout against the throw, and then the subsequent tactical kicking battle and eventually won a penalty inside Myler's kicking range.


The fly half had taken a big bang a few minutes earlier, but he showed no lasting ill effects to bisect the sticks and open Saints' account. Four minutes later things were level as Myler landed his second attempt from wide on the left, which is how things still stood five minutes after that with the kickers exchanging successful penalty attempts.


On the scoreboard it looked like a dull, attritional affair. In reality it was far from this, with both teams looking to launch attacks from all parts of the field. One Samu Manoa break from his own 22 stood out, with Tonga'uiha and Elliott in support, but Saints were perhaps a little guilty of forcing one pass too many, with one such occasion giving Jon Clarke the opportunity to put Worcester in a position to re-take the lead.


Goode's success did just that, but three minutes later his first mistake let Saints off the hook inside their own 22, even if they had to contend with 10 minutes without Dylan Hartley, the skipper seeing yellow as referee Greg Garner ran out of patience with the visitors conceding penalties at the breakdown.


But despite being down to 14 men Saints had the better of the remaining eight minutes of the first half. There were a couple of let-offs, Goode's miss being compounded when the otherwise excellent Errie Claassens was penalised during a dangerous home attack for shepherding James Wilson out of the way.


Indeed Saints could have drawn level when Worcester's forwards pulled down a maul on their own 22, only for Myler to hook his kick left. And although there would be another shot in the last play of the half it was from nigh-on 55 metres with the angle and it was a 50/50 shot at best.


Saints started the second half still a man down, but Worcester could count themselves lucky not to be doing the same. Jonny Arr's stamp on Mark Sorenson had been spotted by the assistant referee, but despite it looking similar to those which had seen Christian Day and Cian Healy suspended in recent weeks the scrum-half just received a ticking off.


So it was a little ironic that it looked like Arr would be Warriors' main man at the start of the second half as he pounced on a loose Saints ball. But not only did the visitors turn the ball back immediately, but with a good chase of a towering Wilson up-and-under (that would have come down with snow on it, to paraphrase the great Bill McLaren) and a strong scrum up went the referee's arm for a penalty from which Myler made no mistake.


Although Saints had opened the scoring it was Worcester who made more of the early running. Claassens made a good break, the full back being felled by a trademark Courtney Lawes hit after Elliott and Ben Foden had combined to slow the South African down.


Goode showed a neat touch with a delicate chip and former Saints Clarke and Neil Best both asked questions of the visitors' defence. But Saints not only held out, but the first time they got in the home 22 they took the lead for the first time with Myler's fifth success.


However no sooner had they gone ahead on the scoreboard than Saints were behind in men for a second time, Lawes seeing yellow for a late hit on Goode. It was a thunderous tackle, but Goode bounced up to tie things up with 20 minutes to play.


But those were the only points that Saints would concede during the 10 minutes. Instead the seven men up front kept things tight, winning a succession of penalties that saw not only Best sent to the sin bin but also a try awarded to Manoa from a powerful lineout drive.


Any thought that the game was over were firmly put on the backburner thanks to Goode's sixth penalty 10 minutes from time, but if Saints were feeling any pressure it didn't show.


A lovely weighted kick from Myler to Elliott did not receive its just reward as the winger fumbled in the final tackle, but while Worcester breathed again that time the contest was killed off six minutes from time when referee Garner awarded a penalty try when a drive was pulled down close to the home line.


Myler's conversion put Saints two scores ahead, and one final turnover on halfway later that was that.


TIMELINE

4mins WORCS Pen Goode 3-0

6mins WORCS Pen Goode 6-0

16mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-3

20mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-6

23mins WORCS Pen Goode 9-6

25mins SAINTS Pen Myler 9-9

30mins WORCS Pen Goode 12-9

32mins SAINTS Yellow card Hartley

33mins WORCS Miss pen Goode

38mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

40mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

HALF-TIME WORCESTER 12 SAINTS 9

42mins SAINTS Pen Myler 12-12

54mins SAINTS Pen Myler 12-15

57mins SAINTS Yellow card Lawes

57mins WORCS Pen Goode 15-15

64mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler 15-15

65mins WORCS Yellow card Best

66mins SAINTS Try Manoa 15-20

69mins WORCS Pen Goode 18-20

74mins SAINTS Try Penalty Con Myler 18-27

FULL-TIME WORCESTER 18 SAINTS 27