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Saints struggles continue at Sixways

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

The unseasonably warm September weather had extended to the West Midlands, and when the action kicked off at Sixways the stage was set for a night of running rugby.


Warriors went on the front foot first, asking questions across the pitch by sending the big runners up the middle and trying to bring wingers Miles Benjamin and Marcel Garvey into play as much as possible. Their reward came in the ninth minute with an Andy Goode penalty and given how Worcester had started it was a deserved score.


Saints finally got their hands on the ball with 10 minutes on the clock. And they made good use of it too, Calum Clark's clean lineout win setting up several charges through the middle from Samu Manoa and Phil Dowson and threatening runs from Ben Nutley and Paul Diggin.


Worcester were drawn offside, and with Stephen Myler continuing where he had left off at Edgeley Park in Round 4 Saints were level.


The visitors' efficiency in attack had earned them the penalty. But when Shaun Perry broke a couple of tackles it set up more dangerous territory for the Warriors. With ball in hand Worcester were showing exactly how they had scared Aviva Premiership Rugby leaders Harlequins in their previous match, and Greig Tonks was twice called into action to make try saving tackles.


The second of these forced a fumble and when Saints won a penalty at the scrum, and then another in quick succession, they were able to clear their lines.


Although there was plenty of attacking intent, and no little skill and proficiency, the sides were evenly matched and with defences cancelling out the attacking play.


Discipline was excellent from both sides, too, and it took a further 17 minutes for the next shot at goal. It fell to Goode, who made light of the 50-metre distance to bisect the sticks and give his team the lead once more.


The half ended with both sets of fans on their feet. Jon Clarke's great run attracted two defenders and left Paul Diggin wide open. With the Warriors scrambling - and looking offside in the process - Saints set about working through the phases. Unfortunately Clarke undid his good work with a forced pass that Shaun Perry, who just a few minutes earlier had seemed in agony on the floor clutching his knee, chipped ahead for Claassens to chase.


The full back's hack ahead drifted into touch, and that was that in terms of meaningful play in a first half that had showed that it was either going to take something very special or a crucial error to break the deadlock.


With their first few phases of play it looked like this would come from the Saints. But when first Christian Day was penalised for holding on, and then Clarke for passing the ball off the deck after stripping Ed Shervington, Goode was able to extend the lead by a further three points.


Although Goode helped the visitors by pushing his kick right of the uprights it had quickly become apparent that Saints needed to regain their good discipline of the first half, and quickly.


But they were now on the wrong side of the referee, and when Mr Rose held his arm out once more Goode aimed for the corner, sensing blood. The Warriors pack did everything right, setting up a maul whose power forced Brian Mujati to go to ground and see yellow.


Again and again they went for the corner, but when the ball finally went wide a midfield fumble provided temporary relief. However while they had the ball Saints had a seven-man scrum and the home crowd was still baying for their men to maintain the pressure.


Instead Saints won a penalty, Myler kicked to the 10-metre line and finally there was a chance to put some of the things that would have been spoken about at half-time into practice.


Then after having been under the cosh Saints suddenly found themselves within sight of the home line. A pair of penalties conceded by the Warriors allowed Myler to kick deep into the 22 and Scott Armstrong's burst through the line forced Worcester to scramble.


Armstrong was looking for work, as was Diggin, and on several occasions Saints looked likely to break through. However while two crucial fumbles ended the pressure and let Worcester off the hook there was still a positive in that by the time Mujati returned to the fray his teammates had held their ground superbly.


This was so much so that when Worcester returned to the visitors' half Goode was prompted to attempt a long range drop goal that drifted well wide. But when the fly half was on target four minutes later with a penalty Saints faced a last 10 minutes needing two scores to get the win.


Director of rugby Jim Mallinder was certainly doing his best, sending on James Craig, Martin Roberts, Ryan Lamb and Tom May to try and add some impetus. Unfortunately while Saints did get some go-forward ball the night was somewhat summed up by a single penalty kick.


Lamb's ambition was admirable, but his touchfinder from halfway stayed well infield. Goode had plenty of time for his clearance, and instead of being camped inside the home 22 Saints found themselves back deep in their own half.


Time was rapidly running out, but when Goode was pinged for not rolling away Lamb had a shot to get his team within bonus point range. But it was hooked left and with five minutes remaining the game looked to have gone, especially when the hosts claimed back the 22-metre dropout.


There were some final flourishes that took Saints back into the 22 but once again there was no reward, Lamb missing an attempted drop goal and Roberts losing the ball in a tackle five metres from the line.


Worcester had held out and when the ball was kicked dead Sixways went into raptures.


REFEREE David ROSE


TIMELINE

7mins WORCS Miss pen Goode

8mins WORCS Miss DG Goode

9mins WORCS Pen Goode 3-0

14mins SAINTS Pen Myler 3-3

31mins WORCS Pen Goode 6-3

HALF-TIME WORCESTER 6 SAINTS 3

45mins WORCS Pen Goode 9-3

48mins WORCS Miss pen Goode

51mins SAINTS Yellow card Mujati

64mins WORCS Miss DG Goode

68mins WORCS Pen Goode 12-3

75mins SAINTS Miss pen Lamb

78mins SAINTS Miss DG Lamb

FULL-TIME WORCESTER 12 SAINTS 3