Worcester Warriors 24 Saracens 18

IT wasn’t pretty but Warriors battled, harried and wrestled the European champions into submission at a boisterous Sixways.

Gary Gold’s game-plan to keep things simple worked a treat as the hosts remained composed and focused to register an outstanding victory in their battle for Aviva Premiership survival.

Perhaps the reigning Premiership champions underestimated the size of Worcester’s fight because the strugglers were dominant in most departments and should have won by more than the 24-18 scoreline.

Donncha O’Callaghan led Warriors’ assault with an abrasive performance on a bitterly cold afternoon alongside fellow lock Will Spencer whose work-rate and set-piece play were first class.

Samoan back-row Chris Vui was dynamic on his Premiership debut and added a new dimension to Warriors’ line-out.

Scrum-half Francois Hougaard has brought a clear direction to Worcester’s play and his decision-making and vision have been sorely missed on the field.

The Warriors talisman came in for rough treatment from the visitors, including a late challenge in the first half from wing Mike Ellery which brought a yellow card.

Fly-half Ryan Mills had a fine match with eight successful penalties from nine attempts to set a new record match-day tally of 24 points scored by a Warriors player in the Premiership.

Mills also frequently kicked Warriors out of their own half and deep into Sarries territory, often turning the visitors’ back-line in the process.

Warriors had been outclassed by Sarries in three previous meetings since gaining promotion from the Championship in May 2015.

And this was the first time Worcester had beaten the star-studded London club since a 12-3 triumph at Sixways in November 2012.

Mills missed a long-range penalty after five minutes but was on target moments later after Schalk Burger’s high tackle on Vui.

With sloppy kicking from Richard Wigglesworth and full-back Matt Gallagher, Warriors built a head of steam and Mills slotted his second penalty after Brad Barritt infringed at the breakdown.

Ellery was yellow carded for his late challenge on Hougaard and Mills’ third penalty extended Warriors’ lead to 9-0 after 27 minutes.

Little was seen of Sarries in attack until they had their first foray into Worcester’s 22 which stemmed from indiscipline from the hosts five minutes before the break.

And Sarries took full advantage. Chris Ashton ran on to Wigglesworth’s clever kick and the former England wing dived full-length to touch down ahead of the sprawling Wynand Olivier.

Alex Lozowski added the conversion but Warriors had the final word of the first half when Alafoti Fa’osiliva won a decision at the breakdown and Mills landed his fourth penalty.

Lozowski failed with a long-range penalty attempt early in the second period but Mills was on target with his fifth kick from distance to stretch Worcester’s lead to 15-7.

Sarries fly-half Lozowski made amends for his earlier miss to narrow the gap to five points.

But Mills’ sixth penalty kept Warriors in the driving seat after the champions had infringed at a scrum and then been marched back 10 metres for comments to referee Tom Foley.

Mills’ seventh penalty propelled Warriors 21-10 in front and with the hosts pushing for the killer blow Jackson Willison just failed to hang on to a pass which would have split open Sarries' defensive wall.

Huge roars greeted Mills’ eighth penalty after more Warriors pressure to give the hosts a 14-point cushion with eight minutes remaining.

However, Sarries finished strongly as Warriors tired.

A well-executed driving line-out was finished off by Schalk Brits for Sarries’ second try before replacement Ben Spencer missed a tough, but important, penalty chance.

In a frenetic finale, Josh Adams was yellow carded for a late tackle and Spencer’s resulting penalty salvaged the visitors a losing bonus point which they didn’t deserve.

However, the afternoon belonged to Warriors who claimed their first win in eight matches against Sarries.