THE demeanour of Dean Ryan said it all as Worcester Warriors plumbed new depths in a season already full of lows.
Warriors’ director of rugby stood stony-faced when he met the media in the aftermath of an abject showing against Exeter Chiefs.
Worcester were outplayed in all areas from start to finish as a combination of poor handling and weak defending allowed Exeter, for whom captain Gareth Steenson kicked 22 points, to run in five tries, including two in the final two minutes.
But by that stage Sixways, barely half-full at kick-off, was virtually empty with the fans who had braved the driving rain having seen enough.
Only once did the hosts look like fashioning a try, when the overlapping Chris Pennell fumbled the ball out wide early in the first-half, and the full-back’s 27th-minute long-range penalty was their only score.
While Exeter march on into the LV= Cup semi-finals, Warriors face the unenviable prospect of Leicester Tigers at Sixways on Friday night as the Aviva Premiership returns.
This might have been a dead-rubber as far as Worcester were concerned, their fate in the competition long since decided, but it was crucial in the context of their season.
With Tigers on the horizon, Ryan had moved away from the youthful selections of this tournament and the Amlin Challenge Cup in favour of his so-called big-hitters.
This, no doubt, is the bulk of the team he was planning to pit against the men from Welford Road in a bid to salvage their campaign.
But, on this showing, Warriors will be on the end of another mauling they can ill-afford at this stage of the season.
Ryan has some calls to make over the next few days. Does he stick with this team and demand they improve or does he revert to the players who offered encouragement in the defeat to Sale Sharks and victory over Oyonnax?
It was Warriors’ lack of fight that most gnawed at their director of rugby against the Chiefs as they were pinned back from the word go.
Following a series of line-outs, another area where the visitors were more effective, the ball was spun wide to Tom James to crash over but, on this occasion, Steenson missed the conversion.
Too many times the hosts squandered possession cheaply and allowed the visitors to break through with ease.
Steenson slotted two penalties within a matter of minutes and, although Pennell briefly cut the deficit, the Exeter fly-half converted his own try to make it 18-3 at the break.
It might have been even worse for Worcester when Luke Arscott went over in the corner but James’ final pass was forward.
They were also cursing their luck when a first-half punch from Romana Graham on Jonathan Thomas went unpunished.
Aided by the sin-binning of Jeremy Su’a mid-way through the second period, Exeter’s powerful pack drove Haydn Thomas over the line for the first of his two tries, both converted, before Ceri Sweeney intercepted Paul Warwick’s loose pass to sprint clear to compound Warriors’ misery.