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Worcester Warriors 24, Ospreys 14
Now, five months on, the Warriors head coach can reflect on what has been a relatively pleasing debut campaign in the top-flight to date.
While the what-might-have-beens against Harlequins, Wasps and Saracens still rankle in the Sixways dressing room, it can’t be denied that it is refreshing to see Worcester looking up the league rather than nervously over their shoulders.
However, Friday night’s trip to Edgeley Park is pivotal to Worcester’s season and, if they could manage to achieve a double over the Sharks, it would send them into the end-of-season run-in full of confidence.
It certainly won’t be easy, though, as Sale bounced back from their Sixways set-back to go on a run to the upper reaches of the Aviva Premiership table.
That form has deserted them somewhat, though, and they are now very much in Warriors’ sights – in fact a five-point away win on Friday would see the two sides level on 30 points.
While I am certainly not expecting Worcester to go to Sale, cut the hosts to shreds and pick up a try bonus-point, it is a realistic goal for Warriors to overhaul this week’s opponents in the final standings come May.
That brings me to the recent run of cup games. Since the middle of January, Warriors have narrowly missed out on Amlin Challenge Cup qualification after a big win over Crociati Parma, before falling short in Paris against Stade Francais.
There was also a win and a defeat in the LV= Cup as Saracens ended Worcester’s interest in the competition, before this weekend’s dead-rubber victory over Ospreys.
There are plenty of positives to take from all four games, but Hill must ensure his side are firing on all cylinders on Friday night as there will be a huge step up in intensity when the Aviva Premiership roars back into life.
With home games against Saracens, Newcastle, Exeter and London Irish all still to come – plus the added bonus of an impending return from injury of the back row trio of Neil Best, Kai Horstmann and Adam Balding – Warriors have a real chance to climb the table.
At the beginning of the season, my prediction was for Warriors to finish the campaign in eighth spot and, while Hill would doubtless snap your hand off if you offered him that now, the Sixways chief will deep down be hoping for even better.