These have been quite a few days for Chris Pennell. On Wednesday he was at Worcester Cathedral with Sir Ian Botham, Mike Gatting, Andrew Flintoff and other leading lights of the cricket world, attending a memorial service for his late father, the former England fast bowler Graham Dilley.
Last night he was on the east side of town, mixing it with the Fancy Dans of Stade Français. A good job the 24-year-old full-back did too, plundering a sixth-minute try and setting up another six minutes later as Worcester Warriors put up a fight on the opening night of the Amlin Challenge Cup, European rugby's second-tier competition.
The trouble was, after racing into a 14-0 lead, Richard Hill's side ran out of steam thereafter. As indiscipline crept into their game, they were pegged back and overtaken by the right boot of Felipe Contepomi, the Argentine fly-half-turned-centre landing six out of seven penalty attempts. For good measure, victory in the Anglo-French encounter was effectively secured for the Parisian visitors by an England old boy, Paul Sackey, plundering their only try.
Pennell cut a razor-sharp line to open the scoring, after taking a crash ball some 25 metres out. Fly-half Joe Carlisle added the extras and found himself doing the same again six minutes later.
Pennell snaffled an intercept as Stade pressed in the left corner and turned defence into attack with a well-placed hack up field. Winger Marcel Garvey latched on to the loose ball, gave it some welly of his own and dived over the whitewash.
That Stade were somewhat shaken was evident when their Argentine prop Rodrigo Roncero lashed out at Matt Mullan and was sent to the pitch-side cooler for ten minutes. It was Contepomi's right boot that gave them composure. After an initial wonky pot at the posts, the 34-year-old hit the target with five penalties in a row, furnishing his side with a 15-14 lead.
Stade had breathing space in the 62nd minute. After Sergio Parisse, their captain and No 8, was stopped just short, Aussie outside-half Paul Warwick sent a looping pass into the right corner and Sackey crashed over.
Contepomi was off target with the conversion but his sixth penalty put the issue beyond doubt as Stade opened up a nine-point lead. It left Hill, Worcester's director of rugby, to dwell on what might have been. "After the first 20 minutes it looked like it was going to be a great night but we fizzled out," the former England scrum-half lamented.
Tries: Pennell, Garvey; Conversions: Carlisle 2.
Tries: Sackey; Penalties: Contepomi 6.
Worcester C Pennell; M Garvey (E Claasens, 74), A Grove, D Rasmussen (capt)(A Goode, 60), T Arscott; J Carlisle, S Perry (O Frost , 74); M Mullan (G Porter, 70), A Lutui, O Tomaszczyk (T Taumoepeau, 55), J Percival, C Gillies (A Balding, 70), N Best (S Betty , 60), M Kvesic, C Jones
Stade Français P Williams; P Sackey, F Contepomi, G Tiesi, D Camara; P Warwick, J Fillol; R Roncero (O Milloud, 73), A De Malmanche (L Sempere, 57), S Wright, T Palmer (G Mostert, 71), P Pape, L Tomiki (O Milloud, 29-39; A Burban, h-t), D Lyons, S Parisse (capt).
Referee D Phillips (Ireland).