Sanderson steadies his troops to repulse Saracens attack

Worcester 25 Saracens 24

Saracens outscored their hosts and outthought them, but the testosterone and adrenalin coursing through both sets of players proved an explosive mix. How the Saracens lock Kris Chesney managed to get away with a yellow card after a particularly unpleasant incident midway through the first half will remain a mystery.

When Worcester's full-back Nicolas le Roux was forced, headfirst, into a water butt which was on a table next to a metal railing, everyone in the vicinity feared the worst. The fact that Le Roux, a 28-year-old signed from the French club Brive, merely got a soaking for his troubles was by the by. The act by Chesney warranted a red card if only for the intent and the potential for serious injury. As it was he went to the sin-bin, along with his scrum-half Allan Dickens, who had tried to pick a fight with Andre van Niekirk.

The referee, David Pearson, did not cover himself with glory elsewhere, disallowing a Pat Sanderson try deep into added time in the second half (only Tony Windo's even later try kept the whistler out of the clutches of the lynch mob) and missing numerous other technical infringements.

Things settled down eventually, with Sanderson urging his Worcester side to ever greater deeds. He set up his fellow back-rower Drew Hickey for a try that closed the gap to two points early in the second half.

A raft of players hobbled off, among them all of Saracens' props at one time or another, until there were not enough to allow them to scrummage. For the last quarter the scrums were not contested. The visitors opted to put on as many running forwards as they could. Worcester brought on their heavyweights, arguing, quite rightly, that they still needed big men for the mauls.

It was through a maul in the dying minutes that they breached the Saracens defences for the final, telling time, driving off a scrum for Windo to barrel through for the all-important try, which Shane Drahm converted. Then it was a case of hanging on for another four minutes to record a second victory of the new campaign.

For large parts of the match it looked as if Saracens would prevail. Their pack was ever ready to interchange passes with their speedy backs, and the threequarters threatened to cut the Worcester defence to ribbons.

Their fourth try owed everything to the vision of another Frenchman on the field, Thomas Castaignède. He spotted the impressive Dan Scarbrough over on the exposed left and slung a perfect pass for the full-back to race in for his second try of the match.

Castaignède had opened the second half by collecting a scoring pass from the fly-half Glen Jackson. At that point Worcester were looking ragged, having conceded tries to Scarbrough and the electric Richard Haughton in the first half. All they had was a penalty try and the first of Drahm's two penalty kicks, but the fightback was yet to come.

Worcester: N le Roux; J Hylton, D Rasmussen, T Lombard (G Trueman, 71), B Hinshelwood; S Drahm, A Gomarsall (M Powell, 59); T Windo, A van Niekerk, C Horsman (T Tuamoepeau, 80), C Murphy, C Gillies, S Vaili, D Hickey, P Sanderson (capt).

Saracens: D Scarbrough; R Haughton, T Castaignède, K Sorrell, P Bailey; G Jackson, A Dickens (J Rauluni, 66); K Yates (T Randell, 59), S Byrne (M Cairns, 59), B Broster (N Lloyd, 52), K Chesney (S Raiwalui, 61), H Vyvyan (capt), A Sanderson, B Skirving, D Seymour.

Referee: D Pearson (Northumberland).