Worcester 20 Bath 23: Benjamin's wizardry consoles Warriors

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The Independent Online

Having been schooled at King Edward's in Edgbaston, like a certain John Ronald Reuel Tolkien before him, Miles Benjamin might be expected to run one or two rings around people. Still a month short of his 20th birthday, the fledgling Worcester wing has some distance to go yet before he can assume lordly status in the wizardry department on the rugby field. Still, at times in this windswept corner of Worcestershire on Saturday the teenage tiro had a defence as tight as Bath's has become all at Sixways and sevens.

It was only on 6 January that Benjamin lined up for his first start in the Premiership. The former West Midlands Schools sprinter ran in a try that day, at Newcastle. He ran in two more on Saturday and now has six league scores to his credit, five of them from his last five Premiership matches.

Ultimately, the latest two could not stop Mike Ruddock's born-again Warriors, now formally secure in their top-flight status thanks to Leeds' defeat at Kingsholm, from going down to a battling defeat against an in-the-zone Bath side who have their eyes fixed firmly on Gloucester's heels at the play-off-pursuing, business end of the table. Benjamin's tries were bagged with such supreme assurance, however, that the young speed merchant's double memo to one Martin Johnson Esq, care of Twickenham, might well be the most enduring consequence from this Sixways thriller.

"Miles looks a real candidate for England honours in the future," Ruddock, Worcester's director of rugby, said afterwards of his England Under-20 starlet. He does indeed. On this highly impressive, high-speed evidence, Benjamin looks as real a deal in the red-rose potential department as the Premiership try machine who was shut out for the day on Bath's left-wing, the monster-sized Matt Batteringram – sorry, Banahan.

Benjamin burnt off the Bath defence with a scorching run midway through the first half, finishing a near-length-of the-field break which was launched by the other wing, Marcel Garvey, and maintained by an All Black wing who was playing at centre, Rico Gear. Then, five minutes into the second half, the Warriors' boy wonder showed he is no flimsy flyer, strong-arming his way past two defenders and bulldozering a third on an unstoppable charge up the left touchline.

On the hour, Shane Drahm added try No 3 for the home side and converted it for a 20-16 lead. It was not quite enough. With 12 minutes remaining, the Bath centre Tom Cheeseman took a feed from Andrew Higgins and touched down in the right corner. Olly Barkley's touchline conversion gave the visitors a narrow advantage and they managed to preserve it, thanks to some Rorke's Drift defending in the closing stages.

"Those last few minutes were all about how big the players' hearts were," said Steve Meehan, Bath's director of rugby. "It took a huge, disciplined effort."

It also took two earlier scores by Cheeseman, who stepped into the outside centre berth and showed the strength in depth that Meehan has at his disposal as he strives to end the 10-year wait for silverware at The Rec. At Swansea in the early 1980s, Worcester's Ruddock was a team-mate of Trevor Cheeseman, a back-row-cum-lock who played for England at B team level, whose son Tom, 22, has played for Wales' Under-21s.

Worcester: Tries Benjamin 2, Drahm; Conversion Drahm; Penalty Drahm. Bath: Tries Cheeseman 3; Conversion Barkley; Penalties Barkley 2.

Worcester: T Delport (C Pennell, 75); M Garvey, R Gear, S Tuitupou, M Benjamin; S Drahm, M Powell (J Arr, 70); T Windo (M Mullan, 40), A Lutui, T Taumoepeau, G Rawlinson, C Gillies (W Bowley, 79), D Hickey, P Sanderson (capt; T Wood, 17-28; 35), K Horstmann.

Bath: J Maddock (M Stephenson, 43; S Berne, 70); A Higgins, T Cheeseman, O Barkley, M Banahan; B James, M Claassens; M Stevens, L Mears (P Dixon, 73), D Bell (D Barnes, 40), S Borthwick (capt), D Grewcock, C Goodman, M Lipman, D Browne.

Referee: A Small (London).

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