WORCESTER Warriors led twice only to lose 18-16 to Harlequins in a gripping European Challenge Cup quarter-final clash at Sixways.

Despite having the majority of the territory and edging in front with six minutes to go Worcester failed to finish the job off and Quins sealed their place in the final four.

Bryce Heem and Tom Howe went over and Duncan Weir notched two penalties including one from distance to move the hosts 16-15 ahead.

But replacement fly-half Demetri Catrakilis dashed Warriors’ European dream with a nerveless 76th minute penalty.

Geoff Berkeley picks out the five talking points from Saturday night’s defeat.


It was the question on most Warriors fans’ lips when they left the ground.

With more than 60 per cent of the territory and the lions’ share of possession it was a match Worcester should have won.

They dominated the first period yet they had just five points to show for it and trailed 8-5 at half-time.

Quins defended well with Chris Robshaw making a nuisance of himself at the breakdown but Warriors made far too many mistakes with loose passes and handling errors.

They also turned down kickable penalties and although Weir landed two kicks from range in the second half he squandered seven points from the tee. The second of his conversions came off the wrong side of the post.


Leading 13-8 with 12 minutes left Warriors should have seen the match out. But a stray pass from Weir and Chris Pennell’s failure to catch the ball allowed Ben Tapuai to burst through.

Suddenly Worcester were on the back foot and soon fell behind when Danny Care’s clever chip found Tapuai to score which Catrakilis converted.

Warriors then regained the lead courtesy of a fine long-range penalty by Weir. Surely the hosts would be able to hang on now.

But two minutes later lock Darren Barry was caught running in front of the kicker when Worcester looked to exit from their own half.

Referee Alexandre Ruiz awarded Quins a penalty and Catrakilis did the rest. Those two sloppy mistakes proved decisive in the outcome.


While Worcester’s supporters will be frustrated by the result they were treated to two exquisite tries by their side.

The first of those came on 24 minutes when Warriors rumbled close with a driving maul before Francois Hougaard switched play and Weir fired over an inch-perfect cross-field kick to Heem who gathered and dotted down.

Worcester’s second score was just a superbly executed. This time Pennell picked the ball up on the 22 before poking through a grubber kick for Howe to chase and crash over on 47 minutes.

Care’s chip for Tapuai to touch down was also a sight to behold.

Another positive for Warriors was their scrummaging. Props Gareth Milasinovich and Callum Black gave Quins problems in the first half.

Worcester changed their front row at half-time but it made no difference with replacements Simon Kerrod and Ethan Waller packing down well.


There was plenty of anticipation around the return of Cornell du Preez who was named on the bench after seven months battling back from a fractured larynx.

But it was Carl Kirwan who has spent two years on the sidelines recovering from shoulder problems that stole the show.

The out-of-contract flanker’s Warriors career looked in doubt when he was shipped out on loan to Ealing Trailfinders for the rest of the campaign.

But Kirwan has forced his way back into Alan Solomons’ plans and his impressive display against Quins could go a long way to earning him a new deal.

The 28-year-old competed hard in all aspects of his game as he put in a monster hit on Mike Brown and was belligerent in attack.

Du Preez also made his long-awaited comeback on 54 minutes and refused to hold back as he clattered forward and gave fans a glimpse of his brute strength.


Whether it was the win in Paris, the comeback triumph against Stade Francais or Ryan Mills’ last-gasp drop goal at Ospreys there have been many highlights in this European campaign for Warriors who had not reached the knock-out stages since 2009.

Unfortunately Quins ended Worcester’s hopes of winning a piece of silverware.

But with three points separating themselves and the relegation zone in the Gallagher Premiership Warriors can now put all their efforts into beating the drop.

The five changes made at half-time was an indication of where the club’s priorities lie as they ensure they are in fine fettle when they visit Wasps on Saturday (3pm).