Thinus Delport scored his "No 2 favourite try of all time" to inflict defeat on Gloucester in this switchback derby on Saturday. Given the ecstatic nature of the South African's celebrations as he slid into a corner of Sixways in the last minute to seal his old club's sixth straight away defeat, the No 1 try must have been a belter. "I ran in from the 10-metre line against the All Blacks at Ellis Park in my first season as a Springbok," Delport confirmed. OK, fair call.
Delport is in his sixth and last season in England (the first two with Gloucester) before he moves to Japan in July. He and everyone else with an interest in this pair of city clubs linked by the Severn experienced mixed emotions. Not for the first time – in fact it happens arguably too often for a club chasing domestic and European silverware – Gloucester's head coach, Dean Ryan, bemoaned his team's inability to select the correct options when, with a 14-12 half-time lead and the tempestuous elements in their favour, they did not finish Worcester off. Still, Gloucester did return to the top of the Premiership.
Worcester's chairman, Cecil Duckworth, has been known in the hard times to bear the countenance of one of the combination boilers which made his fortune. After Sam Tuitupou's 62-second try, another in the 22nd minute by Miles Benjamin – one of a handful of England Under-20 tiros – and then the Delport finish on the short side of a scrum, Duckworth was a happy man. "It has taken a while since they arrived last summer for [director of rugby and head coach] Mike Ruddock and Clive Griffiths to instil their way of playing," Duckworth said.
"Perhaps they tried to change things too quickly. But when I started on this mission more than 10 years ago, we had 50 spectators. Now we have beaten every club in the Premiership." It may prompt a move to tie Ruddock and Griffiths to longer contracts.
The Premiership's shareholding arrangement currently leaves Worcester almost £500,000 short of annual central funding compared with long-servers such as Gloucester. By going unbeaten for four matches including signal wins over Sale and Leicester, Worcester are all but guaranteed a fifth season in the Premiership. They need eight to equalise the shareholding.
Gloucester are in a cleft stick as they prepare to host Munster in the Heineken Cup this Saturday. Ryan's team can score against anyone with their wide game – they toyed with Worcester's defence before Lesley Vainikolo and Rory Lawson ran in second-quarter tries – yet they are vulnerable at the line-out and often penalised at the breakdown.
Worcester now look a decent long-odds bet to qualify for next season's Heineken Cup; if they beat Montpellier (who will be missing the injured France fly-half François Trinh-Duc) in Saturday's quarter-final at Sixways, they are home to Newcastle or Castres in the last four.
Worcester: Tries Tuitupou, Benjamin, Delport, Conversion Drahm. Gloucester: Tries Vainikolo, Lawson, Conversions Lamb 2.
Worcester: T Delport; M Garvey (R Gear, 32), D Rasmussen, S Tuitupou, M Benjamin; S Drahm, M Powell (J Arr, 70); T Windo (D Morris, 53; T Taumoepeau, 75), A Lutui, T Taumoepeau (M Mullan, 70), G Rawlinson, C Gillies, T Wood (D Hickey, 59), P Sanderson (capt), K Horstmann.
Gloucester: O Morgan; I Balshaw (C Paterson, 40), J Simpson-Daniel, A Allen, L Vainikolo; R Lamb (W Walker, 61), R Lawson (G Cooper, 58); N Wood, A Titterrell, C Nieto, M Bortolami (capt), A Brown, A Strokosch (G Delve, 58), A Qera, L Narraway.
Referee: S Davey (Sussex).Reuse content