Castaignède's European vision

Worcester 18 - Saracens 19
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The Independent Online

Saracens displayed steely resolve as they maintained their momentum in their campaign for a place in Europe, inflicting on Worcester a first home defeat since mid-November.

Saracens displayed steely resolve as they maintained their momentum in their campaign for a place in Europe, inflicting on Worcester a first home defeat since mid-November.

Whether their new signing Andy Farrell, watching from the stands, was impressed is anyone's guess, but it would certainly be a waste if he could not enjoy a taste of Continental rugby union with his new club.

Saracens, now fourth in the Premiership, would have left Sixways with a sense of relief after a first-half performance that was well below par. Had it not been for Thomas Castaignède, they would have been trailing too far behind to recoup their losses in the second half.

They were also handicapped by the wayward goal-kicking of their fly-half Nicky Little. Given the high penalty count against Worcester, Saracens should have pulled well clear in the second half.

Worcester's Warriors were very special for the first 35 minutes, running at and through Saracens. They do not possess any out-and-out speedsters, but the patient work of the pack and the canny lines the backs ran off each other helped set up Ben Hinshelwood for both of his well-taken tries.

It is all very well looking to sign the likes of the scrum-half Andy Gomarsall from Gloucester and fly-half Shane Drahm from Northampton, but Worcester need that little more gas out wide to help turn good position into line-threatening breaks. The potential of that sort of injection of pace when position is promising but nothing looks on was perfectly illustrated in the 22nd minute when Castaignède startled the home defence with a spurt which took him clear and he ran in unopposed from 35 metres.

Saracens' second try resulted from Thinus Delport failing to find touch. Sarries ran it back and Castaignède threw long to Tevita Vaikona.

Dale Rasmussen attempted to intercept the high lobbed pass but missed it and over-ran. That left the flanker Ben Russell with an easy run-in after Vaikona whipped the ball out to his right. Ben Johnston then rounded off the hard work, putting Saracens ahead for the first time in the match.

Saracens' revival was, in part, helped by some dubious decisions from the referee, Wayne Barnes, but Worcester should still have wrapped things up in that glorious opening half, during which the pack was exemplary, competing well for every scrap, and scrapping well whenever the opportunity arose. It may be little consolation but at least they gleaned a crucial point towards survival.

Worcester: T Delport (T Hayes, 80); G Pieters, D Rasmussen, T Lombard, B Hinshelwood; J Brown, M Powell; A Windo, A van Niekirk (B Daly, 34-77), L Fortey, T Collier (P Murphy, 50), C Gillies, S Vaili (D Hickey, 50), P Sanderson (capt), B MacLeod-Henderson.

Saracens: D Scarbrough (M Bartholomeusz, 31); B Johnston, T Castaignède, D Harris (K Sorrell, 51), T Vaikona; N Little, K Bracken (M Rauluni, 67); K Yates, R Ibañez (M Cairns, 51), B Broster (N Lloyd, 67), I Fullarton (K Chesney, 58), S Raiwalui, T Randell, B Russell, H Vyvyan (capt).

Referee: W Barnes (London).

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