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Worcester Warriors 11 Newcastle Falcons 16
AFTER just five games of the 2013-14 Aviva Premiership season, is it already time to press the panic button at Sixways?
The club have been through a massive overhaul since the departure of Richard Hill and nobody expected Dean Ryan to produce instant results with a squad he inherited rather than of his own choosing.
However, Worcester have already played — and been beaten by — two of the most likely sides to be battling it out with them to avoid the drop and that paints a depressing picture.
Two points from five outings and home defeats to London Irish, who have been tipped by many to struggle this term, and last season’s Championship-winners Newcastle has sent supporter confidence at Sixways into a nosedive.
At the moment, it is difficult to see where the next win is coming from and, if you listen to many of the Worcester supporters, the side are as good as relegated already.
Thankfully, director of rugby Ryan recognises the scale of the challenge he has on his hands and has not promised a quick fix.
If — and it looks a rather big if on the evidence seen on the pitch so far — Worcester can maintain their top-flight status, the former Gloucester boss will be a good man to have at the helm.
While Warriors dominated possession and territory for large parts on Saturday, they were all too often their own worst enemy.
They should have come roaring onto the pitch and left Falcons under no illusions they were in for a tough afternoon.
Instead, Worcester began the match with a half-baked kicking game and the intention of containing Newcastle.
Surely, when you are at home to one of the bookies’ favourites for relegation, you go out and look to play them off the field rather than simply trying to contain them?
It was a negative approach to the contest and one that played into Newcastle’s hands.
After 23 minutes, the hosts were 13-0 down and had it all to do just to regain parity with the fired-up Falcons.
When Warriors put some width on the ball, they ran their visitors ragged but they were chasing the game by that stage and were ultimately not accurate enough in the set-pieces to claw their way out of the hole they had dug for themselves.
The scrum was a real problem for Warriors throughout and Euan Murray was given a working over by former hooker Rob Vickers, who has only been playing at loosehead since pre-season.
As a Scotland international and Worcester’s marquee player, Murray needs to offer more on the field as Warriors’ scrum is fast becoming their Achilles’ heel.
After the match, a crumb of comfort was offered to the wounded Sixways supporters by Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards.
The former England number eight said: “When I went up with Quins, I think we lost our first six games and everyone was predicting we would go down, but we needed a bit of patience.
“You only have to look at the quality of squad Worcester have got to see they won’t be at the bottom at the end of the season — they just need a bit of a break and that will happen at some stage and they’ll start climbing the ladder, they really will.”