The afternoon started with a cross bar collapsing during a pre-match supporters’ kick about and finished with the referee being knocked over by a ball to the back of the head. That was as exciting as this dreary try-less encounter got.
Gloucester fly-half Billy Twelvetrees out-kicked his opposite number Ignacio Mieres four penalties to two in a game that didn’t produce a line break until five minutes from time. But Gloucester will take any win these days. It was their first Premiership victory at Kingsholm since September, and Worcester’s 15th league loss on the spin.
It leaves the Warriors rooted to the foot of the table and staring at a trap door marked “Championship”. Not that director of rugby Dean Ryan was downbeat post-match.
“We rattled Gloucester’s cage and I’m optimistic for the new year,” he said. “We are a completely different side to eight or nine weeks ago.”
The last time Ryan was involved in a Gloucester-Worcester clash at Kingsholm as a director of rugby, he was left with egg on his face four years ago when a Gloucester played he’d sent out on loan to Worcester – Willie Walker – kicked Warriors to victory.
The natives at Gloucester went into uproar and Ryan left the Cherry and Whites weeks later. It was an experience that Ryan later admitted had left him “burnt”, and he found another reason to be frustrated on his return.
Lamenting referee JP Doyle’s failure to refer a late Worcester charge to the try line to the Television Match Official, he said: “It was shocking. Why didn’t we go to the TMO? It could have been a 5m scrum and our chance to win.”
Kick-off was delayed by half-an-hour when the crossbar was broken by giant inflatable balls being punched into the air by fans in festive costume. Twelvetrees and Mieres then traded early penalties as the teams started tentatively.
The Gloucester pack – not the most reliable of attacking forces of late – began to assert some dominance, and Twelve-trees nudged the hosts in front after they won a penalty at a scrum. That gave Gloucester a three-point lead at the break, but Worcester started the second period brightly and looked dangerous until Josh Drauniniu’s rash off-load went to ground.
Mieres squared things up from the tee but Twelvetrees put Gloucester back in front on the hour. The Warriors then lost flanker Richard de Carpentier to the sin bin for a high challenge on Dan Robson, and Twelvetrees – captaining Gloucester in Tom Savage’s absence – doubled the hosts’ lead.
With five minutes left, Worcester’s replacement fly-half Paul Warwick bobbed his way to the Gloucester try line but the Cherry and Whites managed to win back possession. Gloucester wing Jonny May was yellow-carded with three minutes to go after his second dangerous tackle, but his side ran the clock down.
“It was a relief to get that win but we need to build on that now,” sad Gloucester boss Nigel Davies, who refused to be drawn on the future of Freddie Burns, who watched from the bench.
The England fly-half has been heavily linked with a move to Leicester next season, particularly now that the Tigers have confirmed Toby Flood is on the move.
Davies said: “We are in discussions with Freddie and when we are ready to make an announcement we will. He is a professional player and he’ll play a big part in this season.
“Freddie has publicly said he isn’t playing well at the moment and today probably wasn’t the right environment to bring him on.”
Gloucester: Penalties Twelvetrees (4). Worcester Penalties: Mieres (2)
Gloucester R Cook; C Sharples, H Trinder, M Tindall, J May; B Twelvetrees (c), J Cowan (D Robson, 61); N Wood (Y Thomas, 72), D Dawidiuk, S Puafisi (S Knight, 61), E Stooke, J Hudson, M Cox, M Kvesic (A Qera, 54), B Morgan.
Worcester C Pennell; J Stephenson, A Grove, R Fatiaki (A Symons, 57), J Drauniniu; I Mieres (P Warwick, 68), J Su’a (P Hodgson, 68); O Fainga’anuku, C Brooker (N Seymour, 65-69), R O’Donnell (J Andress, 44), J Percival, M Galarza (C Jones, 75), R de Carpentier, S Betty, J Thomas (c) (L Senatore, 40).
Referee J P Doyle.