Saracens 35 Worcester Warriors 3

AN opening assignment against the Aviva Premiership champions at Twickenham was always likely to prove mission impossible for an injury-plagued Warriors.

Saracens probably aren’t the benchmark against which to best assess the chances of Carl Hogg’s squad this season.

Worcester’s bravery and commitment in defence was outstanding during an error-strewn first half which saw them trail just 6-3 at the break.

Wing Dean Hammond highlighted Worcester’s first-half rearguard with a try-saving tackle on Chris Ashton and the returning Jonny Arr helped to deny George Kruis, who touched down just short of the line.

But this campaign won’t be any easier than the last and there was a sense of inevitability in the way Saracens stepped up a gear after the interval to steamroll their way to victory.

Fresh injury concerns over prop Nick Schonert (elbow) and skipper Gerrit-Jan van Velze (head) will be a concern to Hogg.

Warriors offered little in attack, which was disappointing, particularly with England hopeful Ben Te’o making his debut at inside centre.

And the former Leinster star created Warriors’ best chance in the first half when, after Billy Vunipola had lost the ball, he surged into the Sarries 22 only to be forced wide by last man Alex Goode.

Te’o also made his presence felt in defence with a thumping early tackle on Jamie George.

There’s no shame in being outgunned by the reigning champions but Warriors will rue individual mistakes which proved costly.

Cooper Vuna’s ill-advised flicked pass above his head at the beginning of the second half was a case in point and ultimately led to a converted Sarries try.

And, with Worcester under the cosh, replacement prop James Johnston compounded matters after being dispatched to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Alex Lozowski.

Saracens eventually wrapped up a bonus-point triumph with an outstanding last-minute individual try from replacement scrum-half Ben Spencer, who has a knack of scoring against Warriors.

The recall to the starting line-up of fly-half Ryan Lamb, who began just one Premiership match last term, had raised a few eyebrows in the lead-up to the curtain-raiser.

However, Lamb looked calm and controlled in the opening half and, after Lozowski had fired Sarries 3-0 ahead, Lamb’s penalty hauled Warriors level after 27 minutes.

Worcester’s line-speed, work-rate and defensive structure were sound in the opening half with back row Marco Mama and Val Rapava Ruksin also making decent carries. But Worcester struggled to break the gain-line.

Lozowski, who kicked only two from four first-half attempts at goal, restored Sarries’ lead on the stroke of half-time after Vuna was pinged at the breakdown.

But Warriors’ errors at the beginning of the second half set the tone as Sarries turned up the heat and put the game to bed within 13 minutes.

Lozowski’s third penalty, following a poor Worcester line-out, was swiftly followed by George’s converted try.

Goode rattled a post with a penalty before Lozowski went over for a try, which he converted, to put Sarries 23-3 ahead after 53 minutes.

When Schalk Burger was driven over for a try on his debut, which Lozowski slotted, it looked ominous for Worcester with 20 minutes still remaining.

Sarries managed only one further try, from the lively Spencer, with Lozowski’s conversion taking his personal haul to 20 points.

Warriors were relieved to hear the final whistle after a sobering second half which highlighted the gap between the top and lower reaches of the Premiership.

On this evidence, Warriors have plenty to ponder ahead of Friday’s M5 derby against Gloucester.