Rugby Union: Welsh feel full force of Worcester backlash

London Welsh 14 Worcester 22
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WORCESTER had a point, or two, to prove yesterday. Victory in the Allied Dunbar Premiership Two was imperative for several reasons. Bristol's win over Coventry on Friday evening gave the West Country club 16 points at the top of the table and Worcester would have joined them there but for being docked two points last week for playing an unregistered player.

Worcester are so incensed at the judgement that they have decided to take the Rugby Football Union to court. The player in question, Tom Robinson, came on for the final two minutes of the league match against Wakefield on 12 September, a game which Worcester won 48-22. The RFU claimed Robinson was not registered and deducted two points from Worcester. The club's appeal was rejected on Wednesday.

Les Cusworth, Worcester's director of rugby, said yesterday: "We believe the RFU are in breach of seven regulations in the registration procedure."

Robinson, the England Under-21 hooker from Bristol, was first approached by Worcester in July of last year. Cusworth said that if there has been an administrative cock-up, it occurred at Twickenham not Worcester.

Yesterday Worcester - minus Robinson - secured two watertight points with a hard-earned but deserved victory over London Welsh at Old Deer Park.

Worcester had established an 11-0 lead after 22 minutes. John Liley, the former Leicester full-back, kicked two penalties before Rob Myler rounded off a magnificent movement, one of the few in the match. Taking a quick tap penalty at halfway, scrum-half Bruce Fenley made the initial breakthrough and the three-quarter attacked down the right flank before the ball was switched inside to Myler who slithered over. Cusworth would have been proud.

London Welsh, with a back row, including the veterans Rowland Phillips and Buster White, that was seemingly made for an amphibious adventure, used their forwards and astute kicking from the half-backs Matt Pearce and Richard Lurie to gain position. With the Worcester three-quarters inhabiting a place called Offside upon Thames, Pearce stepped up to land three penalties, reducing the deficit to two points at half-time.

The conditions were so miserable that the ground staff used the interval to apply fresh white paint to the pitch markings. Even then the lines remained blurred.

Five minutes into the second half Colin Langley, the London Welsh lock, saw white, the colour of the card issued to him by the referee, and was despatched to the sin-bin.

Midway through the second half Worcester, who were fortunate not to have Richard Denhart sent off for stamping, virtually wrapped it up when Liley landed another penalty and Myler another try. Peter Shaw cleanly fielded a high ball from Fenley, but his kick was charged down by Richard le Bas who hacked on upfield and it was Myler who won the race for the touchdown.

Four minutes from the end Le Bas knew exactly how Shaw felt when the stand-off had an attempted clearance kick charged down by his opposite number, Andy Lee. Lee, who had come on for Pearce after 65 minutes, followed through to score the Exiles' only try. Lee is on loan to London Welsh from Saracens and was making his debut yesterday.

Only five points adrift, London Welsh were back in it but a beautifully struck penalty from the mudlark Liley two minutes from time gave Worcester the precious points.

It is probable that two clubs from Premiership Two will be promoted at the end of the season although it is not written in stone. "There is talk of Premiership One being reduced from 14 clubs to 12 next season," Cusworth said, "and if Cardiff and Swansea are automatically included it could mean six clubs being demoted into Premiership Two."

London Welsh: P Shaw; J Storey, A Currier, S Roskell, M Giraud; M Pearce (A Lee, 65), R Lurie (D Edwards, 75); G Holmes (I. Buckett, 56), C Olney (G French, 65), A Millward, C Langley, P Carr (C Whittaker, 72), C Alexander, R Phillips (G Peacock, 77) (capt), M White.

Worcester: J Liley; P Holford, R Myler, D Hughes, N Baxter; R Le Bas, B Fenley (capt); M Linnett (P Mitchell, 61), D Ball, N Lyman, C Raymond R Denhart, 61), S Lloyd, G Clarke (J Jenner, 68), E Orgee, N Richardson.

Referee: R Maybank (London).