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Bath 32 Worcester Warriors 9
A GLANCE at the Aviva Premiership table prior to Worcester’s trip to Bath suggested the game would be pivotal to Warriors’ aspirations for this term.
With bottom-of-the-table Sale Sharks having shocked seventh-placed Exeter 21-16 at the Salford City Stadium on Friday night, the stage was set for Richard Hill’s men to finally step up to the plate and prove their top-six credentials.
If Hill could have inspired Warriors to their first league win in his home city, they would now be within six points of sixth-placed Northampton Saints, who suffered a disappointing 27-11 home defeat to Gloucester.
The Heineken Cup dream would have been very much alive and within touching distance.
If that was not motivation enough, the fact Worcester were unjustly beaten 24-23 by Bath at Sixways on the opening day of the season, when Luke Pearce falsely awarded a match-winning penalty to the visitors with no time left, should have fired up Hill’s troops.
Many of the players have said to me this season how that result still rankled and this was the chance to put it right.
To right a wrong and take a big step towards that much talked-about ‘next level’ in Worcester’s prosaic development.
However, on an afternoon which started badly for Warriors with star fly-half Andy Goode vomiting during the warm-up as he battled a sickness bug affecting four or five of Hill’s selected first XV, things soon went further downhill.
The medical staff agreed Goode was not fit to play, while his understudy Danny Gray, who performed admirably given the circumstances, was also suffering from the bug.
Worcester made a typically infuriating start by being hit for early engagement on their own put-in at a five-metre scrum just five minutes into the game.
Seconds later, Bath number eight Ben Skirving picked up from the base, Nick Abendanon fired out quick ball and veteran scrum-half Peter Stringer squirmed over the line.
If Kiwi fly-half Stephen Donald’s kicking hadn’t been so abject, Warriors would have been further behind.
But, as it was, Gray’s 38th-minute penalty should have seen the visitors into the interval just 10-9 down and well in the game.
However, from the restart, a penalty was conceded, which Donald slotted, and, if that wasn’t bad enough, the remaining seconds were plenty enough for Warriors to infringe again.
The fact hosts Bath botched their chance to add to their tally doesn’t hide Worcester’s terrible short-comings in this department.
Good sides close out games and simply don’t concede needless points before the break or full-time.
Aleki Lutui was then held up over the line early in the second-half and Bath, who had 14 men at the time, shot the length of the field for Tom Biggs to score.
That was Worcester’s performance in a microcosm and there was no coming back as the hosts cruised to 19 unanswered second-half points.
While there are still plenty of points to play for, where do Warriors go from here?