Rugby Union: Smith is Worcester's source of joy

Worcester 14 Bristol 12
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The Independent Online
Bristol's season slipped to its nadir last night as they stumbled their way out of the Tetley's Bitter Cup, victims of a last-minute penalty thriller against Worcester.

A Bristol player was spotted handling the ball at a ruck in injury time at the end of a miserable night at Sixways Stadium and the full-back Tim Smith landed the 30-metre kick that made him a hero of all Worcester. Their reward for winning the fourth-round tie is a home match with Newcastle, leaders of the Allied Dunbar Premiership.

Worcester are effectively in the Third Division - two below their illustrious, but poverty stricken visitors - but the gap was not that much in evidence; the cup and the weather, as they say, are great levellers. But so, too, is the coaching of Les Cusworth, the former England stand-off. His side could feel proud of their performance.

The rain had held off until shortly before the kick-off and Bristol were soon wallowing in misery of their own making as well as struggling across the boggy ground. In the first 30 minutes they were rarely in the Worcester half for long; in that time though they did manage a penalty, kicked by Paul Burke and had a hand in the first try of the match. Unfortunately, it was Worcester who scored it.

Paul Hull's sixth minute pass, intended for Dave Tiueti, was brilliantly intercepted by Simon Morris. The former Gloucester wing hared up the field for fully 90 metres, eventually evading Josh Lewsey's despairing attempt to stop him and slid the last five metres over the line.

Thereafter Bristol were on the back foot as Worcester pumped up high balls or drove down through the middle. Another Bristol hand at a ruck presented Smith with the simplest of penalties. And they did not learn. Just four minutes later the referee, Stuart Piercy, deemed that they had gone over the top in front of the posts and Smith made no mistake.

Burke narrowed the gap within two minutes of the restart with his second penalty, and after some prolonged mud wrestling, he pulled Bristol to within touching distance with another penalty when Worcester failed to release 30 metres out. Burke's third penalty eight minutes from time looked to have settled the issue, until the misdemeanour in the third minute of second-half injury time. At which point Bristol went out and 4,200 fans shrieked their pleasure.

Worcester: Try Morris; Penalties Smith 3. Bristol: Penalties Burke 4.

Worcester: T Smith; P Holford, D Hughes, R Tomlinson, S Morris; R Le Bas, S Powell; M Linnett, G Houston (D Ball, 37), M Crane (P Mitchell, 64), S Lloyd, P Miles (C Raymond, 60), G Clark (capt), N Richardson, J Jenner (R Hilton Jones, 60).

Bristol: J Lewsey; D Tiueti, P Hull, K Maggs, D Yapp; P Burke, R Jones; M Worsley, K Dunn, K Fullman, P Adams (S Pearce, 27), T Devergie, J Brownrigg, C Short, E Rollitt.

Referee: S Piercy (Goole).

l Sale had a fright in the fourth round of the Tetley's Bitter Cup at Moseley last night but staved off a magnificent late rally by the home side, winning 18-11.