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Worcester Warriors 12 Sale Sharks 24
WARRIORS’ performances – or lack thereof – against Sale Sharks this term have made for painful viewing for Worcester supporters, but perfectly encapsulate why the Sixways side have been so woeful this term.
By a quirk of the fixture computer, Dean Ryan has gone head-to-head with Steve Diamond five times in all competitions and, on each occasion, it has been Sale’s grizzled director of rugby who has led his side to a one-sided, forward-dominated victory.
In each post-match press conference, the no-nonsense former hooker has churned out mealy-mouthed platitudes about how good a side Worcester are and how they don’t deserve to be bottom of the pile. Easy to say after your side has cruised to a win.
After all five of the “contests”, Ryan has been left to pin the blame for defeat on his under-powered pack – and he is right.
The way Sale bullied Warriors with their driving line-outs in the 29-15 Amlin Cup defeat at Sixways in October was embarrassing and highlighted how deep Worcester’s problems run.
Despite four months having passed since that first instalment of this year’s Worcester-Sale saga, Warriors are still powerless to combat the Sharks’ juggernaut pack.
Ryan and his head coach Carl Hogg have spent many hours on the training ground scratching their heads and searching for answers, but none have been forthcoming.
And it was more of the same on Saturday as Sale totally dominated Warriors at scrum-time, to such an extent that the hosts were even a liability on their own put-in.
John Andress, who continually flatters to deceive as a Premiership-standard tighthead, dropped out on the morning of the game with a back injury, which led to the bizarre decision of pitching Euan Murray straight into the starting XV despite him having hardly played or trained for months.
Ryan’s logic was that it would be better to put the Scotland international in from the start to see where he was, rather than having to pitch him in off the bench.
However, despite all this doom and gloom at Sixways, I still believe – and I will be lambasted for saying it – that Warriors can pull off a miraculous escape this season.
Although the form book suggests no evidence to back up this wild assumption, I can’t help but feel that Worcester still have something left in their locker.
All they need is that elusive victory and their confidence would go through the roof. If they could reduce the gap between them and 11th-placed Newcastle above them to single figures, the pressure on the Falcons would be cranked up several notches.
While Warriors’ fecklessness this term is plain to see when you look at the league table, Dean Richards’ men have hardly set the world alight.
If Worcester could somehow conjure up a win at mis-firing Quins this weekend or when Wasps come to Sixways the following Friday night, then the March 30 trip to Kingston Park could suddenly become a relegation decider.
At a glance: 1m: Cipriani pen 0-3; 6m: Cueto try 0-8; 12m: Cipriani pen 0-11; 45m: Cipriani pen 0-14; 54m: Braid try 0-19; 54m: Cipriani con 0-21; 63m: Galarza try 5-21; 68m: Macleod pen 5-24; 77m: Galarza try 10-24; 78m: Lamb con 12-24.