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Worcester Warriors 26 Exeter Chiefs 31
INEVITABLY, a game like this poses more questions than answers.
Questions such as: How on earth did referee Dean Richards miss the knock-on in the build-up to Sireli Naqelevuki’s match-winning try?
Why didn’t Andy Goode drill the last re-start as deep into Exeter’s 22 as he possibly could?
Why couldn’t Worcester put the game beyond any doubt when they had a two-man advantage over their opponents?
How many times are Worcester going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory before they learn to close out a game?
And, most pertinently, what are Exeter doing differently to Worcester that allows them to come flying out of the Championship and into the Heineken Cup, possibly even the end-of-season play-offs?
I imagine you, like me, are scratching your head trying to fathom out all of these posers. One thing’s for sure, if the Chiefs could bottle and sell their team spirit and never-say-die attitude, there would be an 11-strong queue of Premiership directors of rugby lining up outside Sandy Park to purchase the magic formula.
Exeter were a breath of fresh air when they won promotion to the top flight two years ago and have built even further on an impressive debut campaign.
On Sunday, they host Northampton Saints with the winner more than likely to seal a top-four spot. Sadly for Warriors, such a climax is a pipe dream.
Although the Chiefs required a huge slice of luck to beat Warriors, they never gave up on the belief they could achieve their goal.
However, as has often been the case over the years, Worcester were the architects of their own demise. We’ve seen it time and again this year, but when Warriors enter the final 10 minutes of a game with a narrow lead and their opponents stage a late rally, you just get the feeling they will crumple under the pressure.
I wish it wasn’t the case, but it has happened too many times now for it to simply be brushed aside as a coincidence.
Worcester had been handed a dramatic reprieve when Gareth Steenson missed the routine conversion of Phil Dollman’s try that should have given his side a draw.
Instead of smashing the re-start as deep into the Exeter 22 as possible, Andy Goode opted to hang the ball up for his forwards to chase down, which they didn’t.
The visitors would have felt they’d missed their chance to snatch something when Steenson’s conversion had drifted wide, but Goode’s re-start gave them the sniff of an opportunity — and that was all they needed.