Worcester 7 Harlequins 10: Admirable Crichton is a bonus for Worcester

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The Independent Online

The England head coach, Brian Ashton, having been awarded an MBE in the New Year honours list, found little cause for further celebration at Sixways as the Harlequins captain and England No 8 Nick Easter limped from the field in the 58th minute of a dour basement struggle.

Ashton is mulling over the make-up of his England squad for the forthcoming Six Nations Championship starting against Wales at Twickenham on 2 February and Easter, who is seen as one of the game's rising stars after a fine World Cup campaign, would be a major loss if he were to be incapacitated.

That apart, the match was lit up by a moment of magic from the replacement home fly-half, the Samoa international Loki Crichton, in the 78th minute as he chipped ahead and won the race to touch the ball down, before converting his own try to give his side a much-needed bonus point in the battle against relegation. Crichton's efforts were enough to lift the winless Warriors above Leeds, who face Sale today.

Worcester went into yesterday's game without a win in eight Premiership starts, but Harlequins were in no great shape themselves, hoping to shake off the effects of not having won in any competition the EDF Energy Cup and Heineken Cup too in their last eight matches. The pressure is already building on the rival coaches, Quins' Dean Richards and Mike Ruddock of Worcester.

Richards' lot eased in the opening period as his side did the basics well and Worcester did quite the opposite. Perhaps being at home for a game many would have expected them to win got to Pat Sanderson's men before the break. But whatever the reasons for being unsettled, Worcester were unable to hold on to what hard-won possession they had, particularly on the rare occasions they got to within striking distance of the Harlequins line.

Quins, on the other hand, may not have made the most of all of their opportunities but they at least took two of them to capitalise on the pressure they consistently applied.

The highly rated young flanker Chris Robshaw scored the first after 18 minutes and the former Springbok hooker Gary Botha got the second in the 23rd, each of them the result of sustained forward power, applied wide out. However, the fact that the fly-half, Chris Malone, could not convert from the touchline either of the scores and then missed the sort of penalty shot that is usually meat and drink to the Australian should have given some comfort to the home side.

The Warriors decided not to ask their own Australian No 10, Shane Drahm, to attempt their first kickable penalty, instead opting for a close-range line-out. Quins absorbed the pressure, however, to keep the hosts at bay and go in 10 points ahead at the break.

As the rain began to drench Sixways, Ruddock sent on the heavy mob in the shape of Darren Morris, Gavin Quinnell and Chris Fortey, in an attempt to spark a revival. Then came the injury to Easter.

Quinnell, an unfeasibly enormous product of a famous Welsh dynasty, certainly made an impact with his powerful charges into contact, but the home side could make little headway otherwise as Quins soaked up the pressure and Worcester found making the final pass difficult. That left Crichton's piece of magic as their only crumb of comfort.

Worcester: T Delport; R Gear, D Rasmussen, S Tuitupou, M Garvey (M Benjamin, 14); S Drahm (L Crichton, 69), M Powell (J Arr, 69); M Mullan (D Morris, 44), A Lutui (C Fortey, 55), T Tuamoepeau, G Rawlinson, C Gillies (W Bowley, 72), Wood, D Hickey (G Quinnell, 55), P Sanderson (capt).

Harlequins: M Brown; D Strettle, DW Barry, J Turner-Hall, U Monye; C Malone, A Gomarsall (S So'oialo, 79); C Jones, G Botha (T Fuga, 73), M Ross, O Kohn (J Percival, 73), J Evans, C Robshaw, N Easter (capt; C Hala'Ufia, 58), W Skinner.

Referee: W Barnes (London.)

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