Youngs and Flood floor embattled Warriors

Worcester 18 Leicester 39
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The Independent Online

Another comfortable win for the league leaders Leicester, another gutsy defeat suffered by new relegation favourites Worcester. Talk about one game summing up a season.

Worcester had the better of a tight first half but still went into the break 13-12 down. With the Leicester half-backs, Ben Youngs and Toby Flood, returning from England duty very much on song, the visitors broke free in the second half and left the league's bottom club for dead. With five huge matches left to save their skins, the Warriors have their backs firmly against the wall.

"There were times when we looked frantic and nervous but we're trying not to discuss the 'r' word," said Mike Ruddock, their director of rugby. "For 60 minutes there was nothing in it, so the final score hurts. But we've no complaints."

Table-topping Leicester's situation could not be more different. Tries by Jeremy Staunton, the peerless Youngs and substitute James Grindal earned them a seventh win in eight games, and they are deter-mined to keep second-placed Northampton at arm's length. "It's a step in the right direction – we don't just want to limp to the line," said Leicester's head coach, Richard Cockerill.

Cockerill lost two players – the full-back Geordan Murphy and the prop Martin Castrogiovanni – to injury on the morning of the match but it failed to stop their momentum. Staun-ton, Murphy's replacement, provided the finishing touch to a 13th-minute backs move that was stunning in its simplicity as the Tigers responded to Willie Walker's early penalty for Worcester. Flood and Matt Smith combined after the ball was fired out from a scrum and Staunton hit the line exquisitely to crash over.

The home side gave as good as they got. Walker and Flood traded penalties but it was the Warriors who were breaking free of tackles and offloading to support runners. They were still, though, having to rely on the boot of Walker, who slotted over two penalties in the space of three minutes for a 12-10 lead. Flood's penalty on the siren gave Leicester a half-time lead, though, and the England fly-half booted another in the 43rd minute.

Walker replied again soon after but Youngs sounded the death knell for the Warriors with a typically sniping try in the 50th minute. The impish scrum-half had a clear overlap outside him, 30 metres out, but he also noticed his marker, Tom Wood, struggling for speed. Youngs dabbed on the accelerator and burnt off the flanker to dot down with some ease.

It was a procession thereafter. Flood knocked over three penalties and then applied a conversion to round the scoring off after Grindal, on for Youngs, scampered through.

Worcester C Latham; R Gear, A Grove, D Rasmussen (G King, 72), M Benjamin; W Walker (M Jones, 77), J Arr; A Black (J Page, 72), A Lutui (C Black, 75), T Taumoepeau (O Sourgens, 69), G Rawlinson, C Gillies (G Kitchener, 50), T Wood (C Cracknell, 65), K Horstmann, P Sanderson (capt, C Cracknell 59-65).

Leicester J Staunton; S Hamilton, M Smith (A Forsyth, 79), A Allen (B Twelvetrees, 69), A Tuilagi; T Flood, B Youngs (J Grindal, 79); M Ayerza (B Stankovich, 65), M Davies (G Chuter, 66), D Cole (J White, 77), G Parling, B Kay, T Croft, J Crane (B Deacon, 72), L Moody (capt, C Newby, 70).

Referee: A Small (London).