Waldouck brace pushes battling Worcester to edge of disaster
Worcester Warriors 20 London Wasps 24: Warriors fight hard but relegation beckons after play-off chasing Wasps hold on for all four points
Sunday 18 April 2010
Worcester's iron will not to let their Premiership status go without a fight was writ large against an in-form Wasps side with designs on reaching the play-offs. Nothing can be said for certain, but the greatest probability is that if the Warriors lose next Sunday's match at Leeds, their six-year stay in the top division will be over. If not, it will all go to the final weekend, when Gloucester are due here for what would be a nerve-racking derby.
With one win in 16 Premiership matches, Worcester could hardly be said to be on a hot streak. But that is the thing with relegation battles; the fluffed pass in September is neither here nor there if you can scramble into May with a shot at an escape. The Worcester programme was full of tremulous predictions that Wasps' backs would relish the sun and hard ground. Perhaps it was a bluff, designed to sucker the swanky Wycombe-ites into throwing the ball around and getting knocked down by massed Worcestrians. No way. Wasps had three tries, each converted by Danny Cipriani, in 22 minutes, at which point a hammering looked possible.
That Worcester came back to earn a bonus point – which might be handy – was reward for a determined effort in the scrum and a mixture of bravery and presence of mind by the likes of Chris Latham and Chris Pennell at the back and Aleki Lutui up front. Above all else there was the almost unstoppable combustibility of Sam Tuitupou. The former All Black centre had missed Worcester's previous three matches with a back injury and he was pushed to the limit of endurance by lasting almost 70 minutes of this one. It led Mike Ruddock, the Worcester director of rugby, to remark: "If there was a league table for passion, desire and commitment we'd be top of it after that."
Bankrolled by Cecil Duckworth's millions, Worcester are in many ways the bespoke English club, owning their ground, which is a 65-acre site including a non-rugby business, Sixways Events, turning over £1.7million. But while there are enough people in the game who believe in promotion and relegation it doesn't matter how nice your grandstands are – and Worcester have planning permission for another, to add to their 12,000 capacity. Their best Premiership finish has been eighth, in 2006.
Wasps' first two tries went to Dom Waldouck, arguably the form centre in the Premiership, although he twisted his left ankle in scoring the first and did not last to half-time. Steve Kefu was allowed to make too much ground for the opening score and after Willie Walker kicked a penalty for Worcester, a Wasps scrum allowed Waldouck to work a neat scissors with Cipriani and barrel past Kai Horstmann and Marcel Garvey. Then an apparently innocuous toe-ender from Tom Varndell was enough to split Worcester again, with Waldouck roaming free before offloading the scoring pass to his captain, Tom Rees.
Wasps were far from perfect, though Mark van Gisbergen's replacement of Waldouck in the 28th minute permitted Ben Jacobs to move from full-back, where he had looked grossly uncomfortable. After 30 minutes, Worcester sucked in a lungful of life-giving oxygen. Obliged indecently early to put a penalty in the Wasps 22 to touch, they secured the throw through Horstmann before a pod peeled off and the captain, Pat Sanderson, forced his way over the line. Walker converted and when Wasps were penalised for not rolling away, the fly-half's 40-metre kick trimmed the deficit to eight.
Cipriani's passing had been a mix of the challenging and the predictable, and his penalty to open the second half turned out to be Wasps' final score. Worcester lost Sanderson to what looked like a rib injury – he was walking round the dead-ball line just when an identical line-out move to the earlier scoring effort was being held out by Wasps, who by now had Phil Vickery and Joe Worsley on in their pack. For Vickery, the prop and former England captain, it marked a return from six months' rehabilitation after a neck operation.
In the 68th minute Walker intercepted a Cipriani chip, dexterously juggling the ball behind his back like a snail carries its shell, and fed Alex Grove for Worcester's second try. With Wasps conceding a penalty and a turnover at scrums, something special was on. Instead, a not-straight throw at Worcester's final line-out was a lame conclusion.
"We've got a huge fixture against Bath next Saturday at Twickenham, which is a venue we like," said Tony Hanks, the Wasps director of rugby, who cannot say the same about Sixways – it was his club's first win here at the sixth attempt.
Worcester Warriors C Latham; M Garvey, D Rasmussen (A Grove, 28), S Tuitupou (M Jones, 67), C Pennell; W Walker, J Arr (R Powell, 72); A Black (C Black, 40), A Lutui (C Fortey, 60), T Taumoepeau (O Sourgens, 56), G Rawlinson (C Gillies, 63), G Kitchener, K Horstmann, N Talei, P Sanderson (capt; C Cracknell, 54).
London Wasps B Jacobs; P Sackey, D Waldouck (M van Gisbergen, 28), S Kefu, T Varndell; D Cipriani (D Walder, 68), J Simpson; S Taulafo (T Payne, 59), R Webber, B Broster (P Vickery, 53), S Shaw (J Worsley, 53), G Skivington, J Hart (S Betsen, 60), D Ward-Smith, T Rees (capt).
Referee: D Richards (Berkshire).
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