To Worcester, the precious spoils of Premiership rugby courtesy of Chris Pennell’s last-minute try – his second of a wonderful contest – and Ryan Lamb’s conversion with the very last kick. To Bristol, the misery of another season down among the dead men in the second tier of the English game, where they can continue to reflect on the unfathomable mysteries of play-off rugby. Their record in these matches is desperate.
Not that they deserved such a fate. One point adrift from the first leg on home soil, they appeared to have turned things around when Jack Lam, Jack Tovey and Matthew Morgan crossed for tries in the final quarter. But Worcester are nothing if not spirited and by turning the screw at the scrum late on, they earned themselves a penalty try before giving Pennell a route to the line with a brave handling attack off the climactic set piece.
The West Countrymen were significantly more combative at close quarters than they had been in the first meeting on home soil and, for a while during the opening quarter, they were sufficiently confident of putting the squeeze on their rivals to run two kickable penalties.
The gamble did not pay dividends: Nicky Robinson, their outside-half, revisited the strategy soon enough and landed a couple of three-pointers to cancel out similar scores from his opposite number, Lamb. But no sooner had he nailed the second of those opportunities than the game, and the grand reward attached to it, swung towards battling Worcester.
Bristol lost control of a ruck on their own 22, giving Lamb the chance to poke a low kick towards the right corner. The ball ricocheted into Pennell’s hands and the full-back, capped by England in All Black country almost exactly a year ago, touched down at the flag under extreme pressure.
Lamb’s handsome conversion from the touchline was followed by a third successful penalty, the clever little playmaker from Gloucester looking infinitely more secure from the tee than he had at Ashton Gate. Robinson, on the other hand, was anything but dependable on the marksmanship front, and as the first half drew to a close, the Midlanders had one foot in the big league.
It was do-or-die time for the visitors now and they responded with a hunger that bordered on the ravenous. Robinson banged over a penalty following a high tackle on the increasingly effective Marco Mama and after Cooper Vuna, the Worcester wing, had been sent to the cooler for staging an illicit raid on a ruck, Mama’s fellow flanker Lam wrestled the ball over for a converted try that levelled things up heading into the final 20 minutes.
That sparked a rush of Bristol points and as the clock ticked down, they were 30-16 to the good. Unfortunately for them, the clock did not tick quickly enough and Worcester clinched promotion with the latest of late-late shows.
Tries Pennell 2, Penalty try; Conversions Lamb 3; Penalties Lamb 3.
Tries Lam, Tovey, Morgan. Conversions Robinson 3. Penalties Robinson 3.
Worcester C Pennell; T Biggs, A Grove (B Howard 70), R Mills, C Vuna; R Lamb, J B Bruzulier; V Rapava Ruskin (R Bower 48), A Creevy (N Annett 63), N Schonert (J Rees 77), J Percival, J Thomas, M Williams, S Betty (L Senatore 64), G-J Van Velze (capt).
Bristol J Wallace (M Morgan 58); D Lemi, J Tovey, B Mosses, C Amesbury; N Robinson, D Peel (capt); K Traynor, C Brooker (M Crumpton 70), G Cortes (A Perenise 53), B Glynn, M Sorenson (G Townson 73), M Mama, J Lam, M Eadie.
Referee J P Doyle (London).Reuse content