Worcester 35 Newcastle 27: Sanderson helps Worcester to raise flair factor

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The Independent Online

Newcastle may have scored more tries but Worcester finished up the winners to leave themselves within flirting distance of a European place. But John Brain, the Worcester director of rugby, was not thinking of foreign fields - he was just pleased that his Warriors are beginning to throw off their "one-dimensional" tag.

Brain said: "We still have a lot more developing to do to be able to play what people call an 'all-court' game of rugby, but we have moved on a bit." They have moved on enough to record a try-scoring bonus point and contributed to a thrilling display of attacking rugby.

They led throughout the match, but had a dicey time as the game entered the last quarter. The Falcons fairly flew at them, ably directed by Jonny Wilkinson, whose entry into fray for the start of the second half transformed their approach.

His distribution was little short of brilliant. The timing and placement were near perfect, and his vision was superb. Ironically, it was Newcastle's kicking game which let them down. Wilkinson had a couple of kicks at goal but missed both, and Matt Burke faired little better, landing the first conversion and missing two subsequent attempts.

Worcester's star was the captain, Pat Sanderson. His groundwork at the breakdown was staggering. His linking work in the backs kept moves alive. And when Sanderson was not punching holes in the opposition defence, Dale Rasmussen was launching himself like a missile from the centre. He and Thomas Lombard formed a formidable midfield - it is a pity the Frenchman is returning to his homeland at the end of the season.

Worcester also look to have a promising scrum-half in Nick Runciman, who darted over off a close-range ruck for the try which earned the bonus point.

Worcester: Tries Horstmann, Trueman, Sanderson, Runciman; Conversions Drahm 2, Brown; Penalties Drahm 2, Brown. Newcastle: Tries Flood, Burke 2, McCarthy, May; Conversion Burke.

Worcester: T Delport; U Oduoza, D Rasmussen (S Whatling, 80+8), T Lombard, G Trueman; S Drahm (J Brown, h-t), N Runciman; T Windo (M MacDonald, 52), C Fortey (A van Niekirk, 80), L Fortey (Windo, 78), P Murphy, C Gillies (E O'Donoghue, 69), P Sanderson (capt), T Harding (D Hickey, 57), K Horstmann.

Newcastle: M Burke (capt); T May, M Tait, J Noon, O Phillips; T Flood (J Wilkinson, h-t), H Charlton (J Grindal, 53); J Williams (M Ward, h-t), M Thompson (A Long, 53), R Morris (Williams, 67), A Perry (L Gross, 79), G Parling, M McCarthy, C Harris, B Woods.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).

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