Northampton could have done with a hero at Franklin's Gardens on Saturday for this EDF Energy Cup match. But with the whole of the front row missing, plus Bruce Reihana and Carlos Spencer, there was never going to be one. Not that Worcester were overloaded with players to whom fans of either side could offer homage, though at least they had Gavin Quinnell and James Brown.
By half-time, between them they had done all the damage and taken their side to a lead of 18-0. Not much more was needed after the break, though when the home side's replacement hooker, Dylan Hartley, scored a try, cheering replaced the booing.
Not for long, as both Brown's penalty goals which followed were greeted with scorn. When another replacement, Mark Robinson, scored a few minutes from time, many of the paying spectators had left their seats and were streaming out of the ground.
Quinnell scored both the visitors' tries in the first half, Brown kicking a conversion and two penalties. The former Llanelli flanker's efforts were no surprise to John Brain, Worcester's director of rugby. "No one has taken the trouble to condition Quinnell," he said. "But you can see from his size that he is a formidable player. He isn't quite fit enough yet, but we're working at it and I think you'll see that he will be a terrific player. At 22 stone and 6ft 7in, he ought to be."
Paul Grayson, the Northampton head coach, was unhappy with his side. "We didn't function at any level," he said. "It was painful from start to finish. When we won quick line-out ball, we had it turned over within the next move. There was no pressure, no pattern. We were uncomplicated."
If the Warriors can beat Leicester at Sixways this weekend they will be on target for a place in the semi-finals. Northampton, who have signed the veteran utility back Vaughan Going from Bristol to provide cover for injured players, must beat the Newport-Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade on Saturday.
Northampton: Tries Hartley, Robinson; Conversion Kydd. Worcester: Tries Quinnell 2; Conversion Brown; Penalties Brown 4.
Northampton: R Kydd; S Lamont, C Wyles, D Quinlan (capt), B Cohen; L Myring, I Vass (M Robinson, 50); S Emms (B Lewitt, 71), D Richmond (D Hartley, 40), C Budgen (S Tonga'huia, 40), M Lord (Damien Browne, 54), C Short, M Easter, S Harding, Daniel Browne.
Worcester: T Delport; M Tucker, M Avramovich, S Whatling, G Trueman (U Oduoza, 69); J Brown, M Powell (N Runciman, 64); T Taumoepeau (L Fortey, 33), B Gotting (A Lutui, 51), C Horsman (A Lutui, 68), R Blaze, P Murphy (T Collier, 59), G Quinnell (D Hickey, 51), J Collins, K Horstmann.
Referee: D Richards (Berkshire).