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Worcester Warriors 19 Newcastle Falcons 9
WARRIORS extended their winning run at Sixways in 2012 with a hard-fought victory over relegation-haunted Newcastle Falcons.
Following a dire first-half, the hosts improved in the second period and were good value for the win, which was brought about by Alex Grove’s try and 12 points from the boot of Andy Goode.
While they are not yet mathematically safe, the result pretty much guarantees Worcester will be playing Aviva Premiership rugby next season – not that they have ever been looking nervously over their shoulders this term.
Consequently, Falcons now have a near-impossible task to avoid the drop.
The first-half was summed up by both sides taking it in turns to launch aimless up-and-unders in the hope their opponents would knock-on – which they usually did.
The game lurched from line-out to scrum with absolutely zero attacking quality on show from either set of players.
On 13 minutes, the hosts were caught offside in the middle of their half and ace marksman Jimmy Gopperth made no mistake to open the scoring.
Worcester suffered a blow on 19 minutes when in-form flanker Jake Abbott had to be helped off the field with a knee injury. This prompted a back-row reshuffle as Blair Cowan went to number eight, Kai Horstmann to blindside and Sam Betty switched to the openside.
Warriors finished the half slightly in the ascendancy and a penalty for offside was put into the corner by fly-half Goode. The ball was retained and, after a few probing forward drives, lock James Percival won a penalty when his powerful carry forced the Falcons defence to hold onto him for too long and Goode slotted the simple leveller.
The see-saw nature of the game continued after the break with Gopperth and Goode trading penalties to take the score to 9-9.
Finally, it dawned on Warriors that they had the quality to out-flank Newcastle and they began to put some width on the ball.
Powerful carrying by Cowan put Worcester on the front foot, while some electric breaks by Marcel Garvey had the visitors’ defence creaking.
However, it was Grove who created and then scored the crucial try. The outside-centre made a break down the left wing before linking with Cowan. Percival’s powerful burst near the posts created panic and the ball was fired wide to Grove, who slipped a tackle and dived over. Goode added the tough conversion to make it 16-9.
Gopperth uncharacteristically missed a simple chance three minutes after the try, but Goode made no such error to deny Falcons a losing bonus point when he slotted a penalty with two minutes left.
Warriors: Pennell; Garvey, Grove, Rasmussen, Benjamin; Goode, Perry (Arr, 66); Mullan, Lutui (Shervington, 73), Taumoepeau, Percival, Chris Jones, Betty, Abbott (Cowan, 19), Horstmann. Not used: Ceri Jones, Douglas, Gillies, Gray, Fatiaki.
Referee: JP Doyle.