Cardiff Blues 38 Worcester Warriors 53

A FIRST away win in 11 months, 53 points racked up and the long-awaited return of talismanic scrum-half Francois Hougaard should have lifted Worcester Warriors’ spirits.

But the manner in which Warriors shipped five tries and leaked 38 points against a second-string Cardiff Blues in the Anglo-Welsh Cup will have muted any celebrations.

And a hamstring injury to in-form wing Dean Hammond took some gloss off Worcester’s morale-boosting win at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.

Warriors’ new director of rugby Gary Gold had already pointed out he couldn’t wave a magic wand to make his side’s problems disappear.

And he will have learned plenty from seeing Warriors’ squad impress and disappoint in equal measures in an error-strewn contest in the Welsh capital.

Watched by just 1,370 fans, the cup match felt, at times, like a pre-season friendly and perhaps Warriors got sucked into playing with a cavalier attitude.

They must learn quickly or Saturday’s visit from defending Aviva Premiership champions Saracens could be a painful afternoon in their bid for top-tier survival.

It’s no secret Warriors will need to rely heavily on the aggression and influence of Hougaard to get them out of the relegation mire.

But centre Wynand Olivier and full-back Josh Adams are in decent form and both finished with a brace of tries against the Welsh region.

With Jamie Shillcock having undergone a knee operation, Ryan Mills had another chance to nail down the fly-half jersey.

However, it was another mixed bag for the utility back who collected 13 points but for the second match running threw an intercept pass that allowed the opposition to get back into the contest.

A penalty from Mills, who had missed an earlier attempt, fired Warriors ahead before Adams raced through for the first try after a blindside break and offload from Hougaard. Mills converted.

Steven Shingler’s penalty got Blues on the scoreboard and then number eight Cam Dolan intercepted a pass from Mills to go under the posts. Shingler’s conversion levelled matters.

Blues conceded a penalty at the restart and Warriors regained the lead when Jack Singleton was driven over the line.

Sam Lewis then charged down Jarrod Evans’ attempted clearance to touch down for Warriors’ third try which Mills converted to put the visitors 22-10 ahead.

Adams grabbed his second try after Mills' high kick had caused problems in Blues' backline and Olivier was on hand with the final pass. Mills converted.

Warriors’ grip tightened further when Olivier made an interception and ran through unopposed for their fifth try which Mills converted to put the visitors 36-10 in front.

The Blues hit back on the stroke of half-time with a try from Harri Millard converted by Shingler.

And the hosts’ resurgence continued after the break, Tomos Williams dotting down after a quickly-taken free-kick and Shingler adding the extras to cut Warriors’ lead to 36-24.

Wing Bryce Heem used his strength to breach the Blues defence for a sixth time with Mills landing the conversion before replacement Alafoti Fa’osiliva was driven over the line soon afterwards to increase Worcester’s advantage to 48-24 after 55 minutes.

Blues were not prepared to wilt. Evans’ direct run cut open Warriors’ midfield and he fed the supporting Millard to touch down with Shingler converting.

Blues second row Ben Edwards was yellow carded for a high tackle and, with a man advantage, Warriors promptly worked an overlap for Olivier to score in the corner.

However, Blues had the final word with the best try of the afternoon from Evans who gathered his chip over the top to score and the fly-half added the conversion.