For the past couple of seasons Leeds have given the appearance of a team in search of a banana skin. When they were not sliding on yellow, they were falling down uncovered manholes. This campaign may not have been defined by quite so many slip-ups, though facing Worcester at Headingley yesterday they could have been forgiven for believing the match was another accident waiting to happen. It might well have been.
If Worcester had not spilled so much second-half possession, and had Ben Daly been awarded a try early in the second quarter, when to most observers he seemed to get downward pressure on the ball, Leeds might not have broken their dismal home run, in which they had had no Premiership wins for 10 months.
Outscored by three tries to two, Leeds were indebted to Gordon Ross, whose four penalties, two either side of the break, when Leeds led 18-12, left Worcester with too much to do.
"We gave it everything," said Andy Keast, Worcester's head coach. "Had it been four tries we would have come away with five points instead of a losing bonus point. Naturally, we're disappointed; but things are going in the right direction." They will keep going that way when Sione Kepu shakes off his jet-lag. The 20-stone Kiwi winger, a cousin of Jonah Lomu who only arrived from Auckland last Wednesday, scattered bodies left and right to score the second half's only try.
Ben Hinshelwood and Thomas Lombard scored two terrific tries; the first after Tom Biggs had poached an early try for Leeds, and Jon Dunbar the other off the side of a ruck. Ross converted the second, before Lombard's try tied the scores at 12-12. Thanks to Ross and some heroic defence, Leeds kept in front and even had the confidence to bring on Iain Balshaw for his first run since February. By then Leeds were counting on victory even if they had made no allowance for Kepu's thunderous late effort.
Leeds: Tries Biggs, Dunbar; Conversions Ross; Penalties Ross 4. Worcester: Tries Hinshelwood, Lombard, Kepu; Conversions Brown 2.
Leeds: T Stimpson; D Rees (I Balshaw, 62), C Bell, A Snyyman, T Biggs; G Ross, A Dickens; M Shelley, M Regan, G Kerr (M Holt, 80), C Murphy, S Hooper, J Dunbar, D Hyde, A Popham.
Worcester: T Delport; B Gollings (S Kepu, 62), D Rasmussen, T Lombard, B Hinshelwood; J Brown, M Powell (C Stuart-Smith, 62); T Windo (S Sparks, 52), B Daly (A van Niekerk, 62), N Lyman (L Fortey, 79), T Collier (S Vaili, 52), C Gillies, M Gabey, P Sanderson, D Hickey.
Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).