Ryan promises an inquiry over Balding's early injury

Worcester 15 Gloucester 15
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The Independent Online

Pretty this wasn't, but it still held enough tension and temper to qualify as a rugged local derby.

Gloucester lost their captain, Adam Balding, in the seventh minute. He was left on the ground by a collision with his opposite number, Drew Hickey, following the restart after Gloucester's opening score.

Balding was clearly in a great deal of pain and after a couple of minutes the No 8 was helped off, clutching his jaw and with a bruise forming around his right cheekbone. He was later taken to hospital for X-rays and his coach, Dean Ryan, said: "We are not sure if he has a compressed cheekbone or whether it is fractured."

Ryan hinted that if the authorities did not see anything on the video replays of the incident, then Gloucester would. "I'll wait to see who else has watched it. But I have been reliably informed by the disciplinary authorities that they will look at these things."

Balding's work-rate and ball-carrying were missed. But it is doubtful whether his presence on the field would have improved the quality of play.

The penalty count of this fractious match was almost as high as the niggle count, and both reached unacceptable levels as the referee, Ashley Rowden, struggled to keep up with all the petty squabbling.

"We were lucky to come away with a draw," added Ryan. "We were certainly threatened by Worcester. But the disappointment is that we allowed ourselves to be dragged into a pretty poor game."

Naturally, given the above ingredients, penalties were the dominant means of scoring. There were nine of them, with Gloucester's French fly-half Ludovic Mercier, in his second spell with the club, breaking the run with an early drop goal.

Gloucester had a few notables on show. England's Phil Vickery and Mike Tindall appeared to come through unscathed, although the latter had one worrying moment of treatment for a neck or shoulder problem.

Tindall pulled off a couple of breathtaking tackles - one on the nippy Jonny Hylton out on the Worcester left saved what looked to be a certain try.

Considering it was his first match since December, when he turned out for Bath in the Heineken Cup, Tindall did not look too much off the pace. He put in a couple of telling cross kicks, though there were no explosive bursts through the Worcester cover.

Vickery was a muscular presence in the loose, but the Gloucester pack was made to work very hard in the set-piece. However, Rowden was putting up with no nonsense and penalised the home team three times for unidentifiable misdemeanours at the engagement.

In the end Worcester gained the most from this encounter, it being their best result against the Cherry and Whites.

Worcester: Penalties Brown 5. Gloucester: Penalties Mercier 4; Drop goal Mercier.

Worcester: T Delport; J Hylton, D Rasmussen (N le Roux, 72), T Lombard, B Hinshelwood; J Brown (S Drahm, 69), M Powell; T Windo, A van Niekirk (C Fortey, 69), C Horsman (T Taumoepeau, 80), T Collier (P Murphy, 59), C Gillies, S Vaili, P Sanderson (capt), D Hickey.

Gloucester: J Goodridge; M Foster, M Tindall, H Paul, R Thirlby; L Mercier, P Richards (H Thomas, 72); P Collazo (G Powell, 58), O Azam (M Davies, 49), P Vickery, A Eustace, A Brown, J Boer (P Buxton, 3-13), A Hazell, A Balding (capt; M Cornwell, 7-13; Buxton 14)

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).