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Warriors’ evolution starting to shape up
DORIAN West could barely contain his mirth as he addressed the assembled masses in the Sixways press room having just witnessed Worcester’s attempt to play the ‘beautiful game’ in far-from-beautiful conditions back-fire and hand his side victory on a plate.
Northampton had played the weather and the pitch perfectly, keeping the ball tight and winning the game through their powerful forward pack as Warriors floundered in the mud while trying to put as much width on the ball as possible.
Saints won that game 27-18 and Richard Hill’s post-match assertion was his side would continue to try and employ an expansive game-plan — regardless of the conditions — and that the way the team played was more important than putting points on the board.
An astonishing viewpoint from any head coach or director of rugby, let alone one whose side was very much embroiled in a dogfight at the wrong end of the Aviva Premiership table.
So, credit where credit is due. Hill should be praised for sticking to his guns. While there might be short-term pain — as dished out by Saints’ bruisers up front — Hill has his eye on delivering long-term gain.
The paying public want to be entertained and the crowds at Sixways will only return to the 12,000s when the team is playing attractive rugby and winning games on a regular basis. It’s all well and good utilising a 10-man rugby game-plan and trying to maul opponents into oblivion, but it doesn’t make for great entertainment.
While there is always a time and place for tight, forward-orientated play, decent teams — certainly ones with genuine Heineken Cup ambitions — need to have several strings to their bow.
Hill recognises this and realises Warriors will only ever hover around the bottom four of the table if they stick to an up-your-jumper style of play, looking to scrape wins by kicking more penalties that their opposition.
It’s not been a smooth transition by any means and there have been times this season when Worcester have been woeful, but they are gradually evolving as a team and Friday night’s bonus-point win over Wasps is evidence of that.
The 29-23 success brought with it Warriors’ third try bonus point of the season — an unheard of achievement in previous campaigns — and the 9,214 who were inside Sixways were royally entertained by a thrilling contest.
The 10 minutes that followed the half-time interval were a depressing reminder of the bad old Warriors, but the 70 minutes either side of them provided a glimpse into Hill’s brave new world.