Garvey one-two and Grove's sucker punch flatten Brive

Worcester 29 Brive 18
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The Independent Online

Worcester became the first English side to reach the last four of the European Challenge Cup after an absorbing and entertaining quarter-final. They had to work hard against Brive, who lie fifth in the French Championship, and their reward is an away semi-final against Bourgoin, who were in the same pool earlier in the competition and beat the Warriors 29-14 at home.

Mike Ruddock, the Worcester director of rugby, said: "That is a big scalp for us. Brive were tough. The pack said they could feel the weight of their pack coming through at the scrums."

Ruddock also paid tribute to the brilliance of his right wing, Marcel Garvey, who scored two tries, the first when the ball dropped at the feet of one of the French props. Garvey stooped and scooped then swooped over after a 40-metre run. His second try, near the end, saw him use fantastic footwork and balance to sway and swerve through.

It was truly a team effort, however, and a big one.

"That was a big battle for us," said Ruddock, "and now we have to go to Bourgoin again. It is a very intimidating place to go. They are a very physical but very skilful side, especially at eight, nine and 10."

If they are to reach the final, as they did last year, before losing to Bath, Worcester will have to avoid the errors they made against a Brive team that featured the former England wing Ben Cohen (who made little impact); the current red-rose fly-half Andy Goode (who was replaced late in the first half, for tactical reasons); the World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson (a replacement); the former England centre Ben Johnston (formerly of Saracens and having a fine match here); the lock Damien Browne (like Cohen and Thompson a former Northampton player); and Alix Popham and Barry Davies, who once plied their trade in, and for, Wales.

Although Brive competed well at the set-piece, their line-out wobbled at times and it was really only once they got into space that they threatened. By the time they started their fightback they were trailing 17-3, Worcester's captain, Pat Sanderson, having been put over from close range by the fly-half Matthew Jones to add to Garvey's opening try.

Not until Goode's replacement, Scott Spedding, joined the fray did the French step up the pace and pressure.

The centre Ronnie Cooke was on the end of a big forward thrust in the closing seconds of the first half and four minutes after the interval he was sent through for a second, simple try that closed the gap to two points.

Brive could have taken charge but they were then guilty of a truly unforgivable mistake. Jones sent a penalty wide of the right-hand post, but the Brive players seemed content merely to study the flight of the ball. Not so the Worcester centre Alex Grove, who chased and touched down for a sucker punch of a try. Alexis Palisson subsequently kicked a penalty, but then came Garvey's bit of magic.

Worcester: R Gear; M Garvey, A Grove, D Rasmussen (L Crichton, 77), M Benjamin; M Jones, R Powell (J Arr, 77); C Black, A Lutui (C Fortey, 61), D Morris (S Ruwers, 75), G Rawlinson, W Bowley (K Kitchener, 70), T Wood, K Horstmann (N Talei, 13), P Sanderson (capt).

Brive: B Davies; A Palisson, R Cooke, B Johnston (S Hufanga, 74), B Cohen; A Goode (S Spedding, 40), J Pejoine (A Pic, 53); D Kinchagishvili (P Capdevielle, 20-25), J Bonrepaux (S Thompson, 46), P Idieder (Capdevielle, 49), J van Zyl (capt), D Browne, A Manta (G Vosloo, 46), A Popham, V Forgues.

Referee: P Fitzgibbon (Ireland).