Worcester Warriors 33 Newport Gwent Dragons 20

THE brute strength of Worcester Warriors’ forward pack powered them to a convincing 33-20 home victory against Newport Gwent Dragons in the European Challenge Cup.

Two late converted tries from wing Ashton Hewitt eased some of Dragons’ blushes but this was a convincing victory for Warriors at a rain-lashed Sixways.

The final scoreline flattered the Dragons because they were demolished upfront by Worcester in a brutal and sustained assault for 20 minutes after the interval.

Warriors’ front-five scrummaged superbly as a unit and their grunt merited two penalty tries which underlined the hosts’ dominance in that facet of the game.

It was the first time Val Rapava Ruskin, Jack Singleton, Biyi Alo, Will Spencer and Christian Scotland-Williamson had bedded down together.

And, on this evidence, Spencer and Scotland-Williamson could push for places in Warriors’ squad for the crucial Aviva Premiership clash at basement boys Bristol on Boxing Day.

Giant lock Spencer grew in confidence on his Warriors debut and made several significant carries in the second period which got the hosts over the gain-line.

Scotland-Williamson also added his considerable physical presence to the second row but blotted his copybook with an 18th-minute trip on Dragons full-back Tom Prydie which brought a yellow card.

In fact, Scotland-Williamson’s needless sin-binning left Warriors with just 13 men on the field at that stage because Sam Betty had been yellow-carded for a no-arms clear-out at a ruck.

Crucially, the Welsh region failed to make the most of their two-man advantage.

In contrast, Warriors grasped their opportunity when Brok Harris and Leon Brown were sin-binned in the second half as the Dragons scrum fell apart.

Number eight Matt Cox enjoyed his most influential showing of the season and he picked up the man of the match award.

An assured display at fly-half from debutant Connor Braid, who kicked intelligently out of hand, would have pleased coach Sam Vesty.

A serious-looking shoulder injury to flanker Carl Kirwan and a bang on the head for replacement Andy Short took some of the gloss off Warriors’ third triumph of the season.

An early drop goal from Angus O’Brien, who followed it up with a penalty, put the Dragons 6-0 ahead in Saturday’s Pool Three battle.

After Betty and Scotland-Williamson were yellow carded, the hosts’ frustration increased when Braid was off target with a 30-metre penalty.

But the tension eased in the last play of the opening half.

Ruskin crashed over the whitewash from close range with Braid converting, after a scrum-penalty had given Warriors the attacking platform.

Warriors looked a different side after the interval and wing Dean Hammond collected a neat offload from Ben Howard to grab Worcester's second try within three minutes of the re-start.

With Warriors pack now overwhelming the visitors, Harris’ yellow card was swiftly followed by the hosts’ first penalty try before Brown was also dispatched to the sin-bin.

With the Dragons pinned in the far corner, Warriors were awarded a second penalty try, which Braid converted, to sweep the hosts into an emphatic 26-6 lead after 59 minutes.

It got even better for Warriors after Max Stelling seized upon a loose kick to race through a gap in Dragons’ defence for their fifth try, with Braid converting. The result was done and dusted.

But the Dragons finished with a flourish and two well-taken tries from the lively Hewitt, with O’Brien converting both, will give them hope for Friday's return fixture at Rodney Parade (7.30pm).

Despite Short leaving the field, Warriors chose not to risk Jamie Shillcock and kept him on the bench as they played out the final few minutes with 14 men.