Worcester 33 Exeter 38 match report: Gareth Steenson steers Exeter towards Europe as Warriors perish
Rather too late as they contemplate what looks certain to be a second relegation from the Premiership, Worcester claimed their first four-try point of the season, plus a losing bonus, when really they had needed a win to inspire anything like a genuine hope of escape .
There is a seven-point gap to Newcastle above them at the bottom of the table, and the Falcons also have a greater number of wins. As Worcester go to Bath and Saracens next before finishing here against Gloucester, their chances of staying up are the slim side of emaciated.
This club have built almost the bespoke model for facilities and access hard by the M5, up which Exeter travelled for the win that bolstered their bid to qualify for next season's new European Champions Cup, but Worcester have set low standards with a high turnover of coaches and an inability to hang on to top players. England's Tom Wood, Dylan Hartley, Matt Kvesic and Matt Mullan, plus Miles Benjamin, Graham Kitchener and Joe Carlisle, are among those nurtured here who departed to rival clubs.
Worcester were first promoted to the Premiership in 2004, relegated in 2010 and returned in 2011. They may come back again. But relegation normally means job cutbacks and depression among the supporters, so it will be up to the long-time benefactor and chairman Cecil Duckworth, and the less well-known majority shareholder David Allen (the founder of DHL Couriers), to decide how much and where to cut.
Dean Ryan, Worcester's current director of rugby, said: "I'm not going to hang on positives – we didn't win and for half an hour we just weren't good enough.
"But we're not going away. London Irish won at Saracens a few weeks ago so funny things can happen."
In a match resembling 15-a-side sevens, Gareth Steenson played as if protected by some kind of forcefield, such was Worcester's hapless attempts at tackling him. Crossing the gainline at will, the Exeter fly-half was prominent in the first two tries, by Dave Lewis, who threw a dummy you could have seen from the motorway, and Sam Hill in the opening 15 minutes, and scored himself in the 25th minute after an easy break by Hill.
So the two tries Worcester plundered within three minutes just after the half-hour were essential to stop the rot. Chris Pennell, the fine full-back who has played every minute of the Premiership season, went over on the short side of a scrum, followed by the Samoan wing David Lemi fashioning a try of typical brio at the same left-hand corner.
Whereas Steenson, the league's third-highest points scorer, would reach half-time with his 80 per cent Premiership goal-kicking rate intact after converting Jack Yeandle's try from a line-out drive, following a missed penalty, Worcester were in the less predictable hands of Lamb. In addition to three missed kicks, to go with a 13th-minute penalty and the conversion of Lemi's try, the much-travelled No 10 mixed fabulous and foul with a brilliant running pick-up as he chased back in his 22 coupled with a pass chucked to nowhere that Jonny Arr was obliged to hack into touch, leading to Yeandle's try.
Frayed nerves might be Lamb's middle names. But it would be wrong to lay anything like all the blame at the former Gloucester, Northampton, Leicester and London Irish fly-half's door. Worcester's missed-tackle count must have ticked well into double figures even before Lamb's 46th- minute penalty was trumped in rapid order by Yeandle's second try, converted by Steenson.
Agustin Creevy's try converted by Lamb after 52 minutes and a yellow card for Exeter's James Scaysbrook sandwiched a penalty by Steenson, before Lemi grabbed his second try and Exeter led 38-30.
Then Kai Horstmann, once of this parish, was penalised for holding on, and Lamb kicked the goal. In the final play, Lamb cross-kicked to Josh Drauniniu, who decided to wait for the bounce and fumbled forward as Arscott moved in.
Worcester C Pennell; J Drauniniu, A Grove, R Fatiaki (A Symons, 55), D Lemi; R Lamb, J Arr; O Fainga'anuku, A Creevy (E Shervington, 58), E Murray, J Percival, M Galarza, M Williams (S Taulava, 58), S Betty (R de Carpentier, 76), J Thomas (capt).
Exeter P Dollman; M Jess, I Whitten, S Hill (L Arscott, 66), F Vainikolo (H Slade, 76); G Steenson, D Lewis; B Moon (C Rimmer, 39-41, 59), J Yeandle (L Cowan-Dickie, 59), A Brown, D Armand (J Scaysbrook, 55), D Welch, D Ewers, D Mumm (capt), K Horstmann.
Referee J P Doyle (London)
Pens: Twelvetrees 4
Tries: Hooper, penalty
Pens: Ford 2
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