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Rovigo 17 Worcester Warriors 80
6:06pm Sunday 13th January 2013 in Sport
WING Josh Drauniniu scorched over for a blistering hat-trick as Warriors ran riot in Europe again to keep their slim qualification hopes alive in the Amlin Challenge Cup — at least for one more week.
Worcester arrived at Stadio Mario Battaglini in Italy knowing only a maximum-point win would be enough to keep the heat on French giants Perpignan in the race for the last eight.
They had already handed out a record-breaking drubbing to Rovigo earlier this season and looked set to tear up the record books yet again.
Warriors romped to the all-important bonus point in less than half-an-hour with star man Drauniniu leading the way.
But Rovigo showed plenty of heart to hit back as Jean Francois Montauriol drove over and Francesco Menon dotted down.
But normal service was resumed in the second-half as the floodgates opened and Warriors clocked up another devastating statistic with 54 points in less than 30 minutes of free-flowing, attacking rugby.
In three games against the so-called weaker sides in Europe this term, Warriors have rattled up 255 points, conceded just 25 and crossed the whitewash 39 times, scoring a try on average every six minutes.
You could certainly forgive Bizkaia Gernika for not rushing to get on a plane to Sixways this weekend.
However, impressive figures will still not see Warriors progress. Although they will almost certainly eclipse Perpignan on points scored, Worcester will finish behind the Top 14 team if they are level on points.
Top spot is decided on head-to-head record and the French have the edge.
It’s never over until it’s over and Warriors will not throw in the towel. But Gernika at home on Saturday now becomes about momentum, giving those on the fringe another chance to impress and build on the positives. There were plenty of those in Rovigo.
Nikki Walker ended his 11-game try drought by opening the scoring as he brushed two men aside before Blair Cowan peeled off the back of a maul to score.
Drauniniu then took centre stage as he finished off a searing run from Errie Claassens before nailing the bonus when he left his opposite number clutching at thin air after delicious footwork.
With a commanding lead, the visitors paid the price for taking their foot off the gas as Montauriol and Menon responded.
When Stefan Basson slotted a long-range penalty early in the second-half, the lead was suddenly nine points.
However, Rovigo worked exceptionally hard to stay in touch and in the final half-hour it started to show as the wheels came off in dramatic fashion and Warriors simply ran riot.
Jake Abbott tore away before the impressive Andy Short grabbed the try his display deserved as he galloped free down the right.
Super-sub Max Stelling, scorer of a six-minute hat-trick against Gernika in October, continued his love affair with the competition as he served up a quick-fire brace.
Rovigo’s Guido Calabrese was yellow carded for killing the ball and ruthless Warriors took advantage as a pinpoint cross-kick from Danny Gray picked out Cowan, neat hands sent Neil Best away and Walker duly strode over.
The best was saved for last as Drauniniu celebrated his man-of-the-match award with a sublime solo effort in the final seconds as he blasted past three men and dived in.