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Ill-discipline rears its ugly head again for Warriors
8:26pm Sunday 16th February 2014 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
WHILE Worcester Warriors will rightly want to accentuate the positive points from their defeat at Northampton Saints, it is the negatives that will come to the fore.
Trailing 9-6 at half-time, despite having had Leonardo Senatore sin-binned, Warriors were showing the sort of battling qualities that befit a team scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the table.
Going into the break at Franklin’s Gardens, they were very much in the contest thanks also to the boot of full-back Chris Pennell.
Similarly, they kept themselves in touch in the second period when, after Northampton had extended their lead to 16-6, Alex Grove and David Lemi combined for a fine try by the Bristol-bound Samoan.
But then things started to go wrong, as the Saints cranked up the pressure and Dean Ryan’s side lost their discipline in a feisty encounter.
Captain Jonathan Thomas’ 52nd-minute red card for lashing out at Sam Dickinson, an incident which also saw the Northampton man shown yellow, was the start of their undoing.
Sam Betty joining him on the sidelines moments later after being sent to the sin-bin just made matters worse as, while Warriors could just about hold the Saints a man light, it was near-impossible when the hosts were back to the full complement.
Sure enough, Northampton, boosted by 15 points from the boot of Stephen Myler, went over for two more tries and the fact they were both scored by Warriors-bound back row GJ van Velze only rubbed salt into the wounds.
In van Velze, there is quality heading for Sixways in the summer – but that will be of little consolation at the moment.
With Northampton chasing a bonus-point fourth try, Warriors continued to dig until the end and even saw replacement tighthead Rob O’Donnell power into the Saints’ 22, but by then, the damage had been done.
For all their sterling defensive work, Warriors were undone by their discipline, an area that has blighted them in the past, and Newcastle Falcons’ bonus-point defeat at Harlequins leaves Worcester further adrift at the foot of the table.
The chasm is now 11 points and, with just eight games left, starting against Sale Sharks at Sixways on Saturday, the margin for error is shrinking by the week.
Warriors may be showing some fight, quite literally in Thomas’ case, and producing better performances, but it is wins they need.
Facing the league leaders in their own backyard was a fixture unlikely to have been targeted as winnable, yet it could have acted as a building block towards the Sale clash, which presumably has been marked down in that category.
It still could be a stepping stone, but now Worcester face being without their captain, who has been one of the stand-out performers this term.
Another of those has been Pennell and the full-back once again illustrated why he is so highly regarded as he kicked with aplomb, despite missing on two occasions, handled excellently and ran at Northampton with a fierce determination.
One of the positive points from a match overshadowed by the negatives.
At a glance: 4m: Pennell pen 0-3 12m: Myler pen 3-3 19m: Myler pen 6-3 24m: Myler pen 9-3 40m: Pennell pen 9-6 43m: Penalty try 14-6 44m: Myler con 16-6 46m: Lemi try 16-11 55m: van Velze try 21-11 56m: Myler con 23-11 60m: Pennell pen 23-14 69m: van Velze try 28-14 70m: Myler con 30-14