Worcester 16 Ospreys 47: Williams makes bad week worse for Ruddock

Seven-try defeat follows public criticism of Worcester coach's time in charge of Wales
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The Independent Online

It was Welsh rugby reunited here but the last thing Worcester's director of rugby, Mike Ruddock, needed in his search for a first win of the season was so many old mates steaming over the Severn in full try-scoring pomp. Ruddock also had to deal with morning headlines which sprang from criticism of his time in charge of Wales in the forthcoming autobiography of the former captain, Gareth Thomas.

Shane Williams, a wing for the 2005 Grand Slam side when Ruddock was head coach, was at his teasing, jinking best and scored two of the Ospreys' seven tries. He also put in two brave tackles to help halt Worcester's Welsh No 8, Gavin Quinnell, all 20-odd stones of him.

The Ospreys scored tries through Lee Byrne and Nikki Walker in an impressive opening 15 minutes and were too strong for a Worcester team much the same in make-up as the one which spent last season fighting relegation.

Thomas, Ruddock's captain in 2005, wrote yesterday in a newspaper serialisation of his book that he told the coach the season after the Slam that things needed to change within the squad. When it didn't happen, Thomas complained to the then Welsh Rugby Union chief executive, Steve Lewis. This calls into question past denials that players went behind Ruddock's back as much as it suggests the coach was not up to his job.

Worcester took up the theme of The Great Escape on their charge to beat the drop last spring and in the summer it was Enter the Dragon as Ruddock and Clive Griffiths succeeded John Brain in charge of the coaching. Their record to date is five defeats and a draw in the Premiership to leave Worcester bottom by a point, and now this woeful start to Pool C of the EDF Energy Cup.

The Ospreys had all their World Cup participants on parade, plus Gavin Henson. The perma-tanned one sported a Beatle haircut and enjoyed himself in the Wales midfield combo that never was in France, alongside the fly-half James Hook. A dummy run by Henson after nine minutes allowed Williams to dart up the left. He was scragged but it was only a few seconds' respite for Worcester as Byrne cut a straight line to the posts for his fourth try of the season, Hook converting. Then Walker finished off another move. This made pleasing viewing for Kevin Hopkins, the Ospreys' director of rugby, who was captain under Ruddock when Swansea won the Welsh league way back in the pre-regional days.

It was very grim for Ruddock, though, who left the press conference to Griffiths. The head coach – Wales's defence chief in 2005 – said: "There are things players don't understand about coaching," and pointed out that Ruddock rather than Graham Henry, Steve Hansen or Scott Johnson actually won something with Wales. The Sixways regulars have been waiting for the "more open and entertaining type of game" promised by Ruddock and must be counting the minutes until the Kiwi signings Rico Gear, Sam Tuitupou and Greg Rawlinson turn up.

Worcester's game was based on kicking and set-piece but the visitors had grunt too, in the form of Ian Evans in the second row. In the 38th minute Williams collected a quite beautiful cross-kick on a low trajectory by Hook to run in from halfway, past a soft tackle by Thinus Delport, and it was 21-3. Shane Drahm had kicked a penalty for Worcester and the full-back potted two more either side of half-time.

Even with their captain and No 8, Filo Tiatia, in the sin-bin, the Ospreys secured the bonus point after 50 minutes when Byrne danced, Justin Marshall probed and Sonny Parker finished. Worcester lost their captain, Pat Sanderson, to a pulled calf muscle. Craig Gillies scored an unlikely try at the right corner for Worcester from a James Brown cross-kick but the Ospreys grew increasingly cocky.

Williams got his second try from Walker's pass and the replacement scrum-half, Mike Phillips, had ran through from Tiatia's palm-down at a line-out. There was a second try for Byrne after a run by Alun-Wyn Jones. The last two tries were converted by Hook's replacement, Shaun Connor, to wrap up a thorough beating for Worcester.

Worcester: S Drahm (M Benjamin, 51); M Garvey, D Rasmussen, M Tucker, T Delport; L Crichton (J Brown, 61), R Powell (M Powell, 61); D Morris (T Windo, 57), A Lutui (C Fortey, 57), T Taumoepeau, P Murphy, C Gillies, D Hickey, G Quinnell (W Bowley, 65), P Sanderson (capt; K Horstmann, 40)

Ospreys: L Byrne; S Williams, S Parker (A Bishop, 64), G Henson, N Walker; J Hook (S Connor, 69), J Marshall (M Phillips, 64); D Jones, H Bennett (R Hibbard, 65), C Griffiths (A Jones, 47), I Gough (A-W Jones, 57), I Evans, J Thomas (H T-Pole, 69), F Tiatia (capt), B Lewis.

Referee: N Owens (Wales).