There is nothing like an underdog sensing a historic win and going all out for glory. And this was nothing like an underdog sensing a historic win and going all out for glory. Needing a converted try to record a first win at Welford Road, Worcester ran down the clock before their reserve scrum-half, Johnny Arr, shamelessly kicked the ball out to secure a losing bonus point. Welcome to the nail-biting Guinness Premiership.
In fairness to Mike Ruddock, this is the nature of the beast. Yet even the Warriors' director of rugby would confirm that on occasions such as this it isn't the prettiest of beasts. Indeed, when the understandable satisfaction of that bonus point wears off, Ruddock may even look back and reason that the injury-ravaged Tigers were there for the taking.
His opposite number, Richard Cockerill, certainly saw a lack of ambition in his rivals' ranks. "They came here to try to spoil us and grind out a point," he said. "You saw that with what they did at the end." He was unhappy with referee Chris White for not using his yellow card. But Worcester conceded 15 penalties, "most in their own half".
Cockerill had a point. He also had another problem. He is blighted by a ghastly injury list. At least nine first-teamers were missing and how it showed. There was nothing wrong with the possession they secured. It was just what they did with it or, more to the point, failed to do. Treacherous, blustery conditions and some sterling defence only partially accounted for Leicester's mediocrity.
They should have buried Worcester in the first half. At least nine Tigers wondered why they were only four points to the good at the interval – the pack and Dan Hipkiss. While the former put an iron grip on the opposition, especially in the scrum, Hipkiss was the one back who had the wherewithal to locate the open air.
On this form he must be in Martin Johnson's England equation. One break in particular stood out, a 40-yard skip and dance that with quicker ball would have led to a try. As it was, Leicester had to wait until the 33rd minute. The try came when a Worcester maul gave way, allowing Lewis Moody to crash over at the the corner.
It was a tremendous effort from Jeremy Staunton to land the conversion. But the golden boot went to the other No 10, Willie Walker. His two earlier penalties were well-taken but his third, a thumper from 60 metres, used every inch of his range and every breath of the wind to land on the bar and go over. It gave Worcester hope and it was soon to give the Tigers the heebie-jeebies.
Worcester came out determined to do more than defend. Within 10 minutes they had applied their first real pressure. When Chris Latham put in the blindside Tom Wood the try may have been overdue, but they were in front. After coming so close to winning at Northampton on the opening day, a famous win was on. Not for long.
Leicester rediscovered their go- forward and soon Staunton had increased his haul to 14 points, first with a drop-goal and then with his third penalty of the afternoon. There was still time for Worcester to launch a last-gasp counter, but they declined the opportunity. With two minutes left their captain, Pat Sanderson, instructed Latham to kick a penalty to touch and so the bonus point, which just might prove precious, was secured.
A fine match for them, no doubt. But it was left to the romantics to dream of a more giddying feat.
Leicester S Hamilton; J Murphy, D Hipkiss, A Allen, M Smith (Gonzalez Amorosino, 43); J Staunton, J Grindal (B Youngs, 55); B Stankovich (Ayerza, 50), J Duffey (M Davies, 59-78), M Castrogiovanni (White, 59), L Deacon (capt), B Kay (G Parling, 64), T Croft, J Crane (C Newby, 63), L Moody.
Worcester C Latham; R Gear, A Grove (D Rasmussen, 70), S Tuitupou, M Benjamin; W Walker, R Powell (J Arr, 74); A Black (M Mullan, 48), C Fortey (A Lutui, 48), T Taumoepeau, G Rawlinson, C Gillies (G Kitchener, 48), T Wood, N Talei, P Sanderson (capt).
Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).Reuse content