WORCESTER Warriors put in a monumental effort but Exeter Chiefs snatched victory from the jaws of defeat courtesy of a late Harry Williams try.

Williams’ score came with five minutes left and was heart-breaking for Worcester who led for much of the Gallagher Premiership clash that was played in heavy rain at Sixways.

A first-half double from Perry Humphreys put Warriors 17-3 in front before Exeter surged back to draw level.

Duncan Weir landed a 69th-minute penalty and Worcester looked set to hold on thanks to a resilient defensive shift.

But Williams crashed over from close range to seal the 24-20 win while Warriors had to settle for a losing bonus point and were left with injury concerns over back-row duo Sam Lewis and Marco Mama.


While his former team-mate Josh Adams’ career has gone from strength to strength, Humphreys has been hit by injuries.

But the wing stepped up to the plate and took his chances when they came on Sunday, emphasising he can be the player to lead the club’s try-scoring charts this season.

Humphreys popped up in midfield to collect Cornell du Preez’s pass before brilliantly bursting through, skipping beyond Stuart Hogg and Alex Cuthbert to score inside the first 10 minutes.

The 25-year-old then hugged the right touch-line to collect Niall Annett’s pass and dive over in the corner.

With Duncan Weir landing both conversions, Warriors led 17-3 after the opening 30 minutes.


Last week Warriors were superb before losing Francois Hougaard and they felt the effects of two more injury setbacks.

Lewis was at the heart of almost everything for Warriors in the opening period.

He was alert to gather an errant Exeter lineout before pouncing on another loosing ball which proved pivotal in Humphreys’ second score.

But Warriors were dealt a blow five minutes before the break when Lewis suffered a bang to the head following a big collision.

Like at Northampton Saints, Exeter took advantage with Jacques Vermuelen breaking free and releasing scrum-half Jack Maunder to score which Joe Simmonds converted to cut the deficit to 17-10.

With five minutes to go and Warriors leading 20-17, Marco Mama then limped off the field, meaning Francois Venter had to come into the back row.

The injury did not help Worcester’s cause as Williams scored the match-winning try.


When they faced Exeter last month Warriors completed more than 300 tackles and they racked up a similar amount this time around.

Showing great heart and desire, Worcester kept Exeter’s attack at bay on numerous occasions.

Their defensive structure led to many uncharacteristic mistakes from Chiefs who are known for keeping hold of the ball.

Duncan Weir (20), Ryan Mills (19), Ted Hill (19) and Gareth Kitchener(17) were the top tacklers as Worcester dug in valiantly.

But Exeter’s persistence paid off in the closing stages. Firstly Matt Kvesic burrowed over before 32 phases of attacking pressure eventually resulted in Williams scoring.

It was a gut-wrenching loss for Warriors but they can take a lot of pride from the way they defended.


With 20 minutes left Warriors led 17-10 and had a chance to press home their advantage as they had an attacking scrum in Exeter’s 22.

But they were penalised with Richard Palframan the guilty man and Exeter set up a lineout on halfway.

Moments later Michael Fatialofa was pinged for a no-arms tackle at a ruck and suddenly Warriors found themselves defending their own line before Kvesic squeezed over.

Weir put Worcester back ahead on 69 minutes before Chris Pennell, who had been exceptional under the high ball in torrid conditions, made a costly mistake.

The full-back collected the ball before shanking it into touch midway inside Worcester’s own half.

What followed was a brutal five-minute spell of Exeter pressure before Williams finally broke Worcester’s resistance and their hearts.


Warriors tend to struggle when Hougaard is not playing ­— and the statistics back that up.

Since making his debut in February 2016 Worcester have won 22 of the 50 games Hougaard has played a part in ­— that is a 44 per cent win ratio.

But when Hougaard has been unavailable the success rate drops to just 12.5 per cent with only three victories from 24 matches.

So this result against Exeter was perhaps inevitable.

But Michael Heaney, making only his second Premiership start, performed well in Hougaard's absence as he was involved in the build-up to Humphreys’ first try.

The Irishman was accurate in all departments during the 80 minutes as he kicked well out of hand and his delivery was swift.

Warriors: Pennell 8; Humphreys 8, Beck 7, Mills 7, Nanai 7; WEIR 8, Heaney 7; Black 6 (Waller 51, 6), Annett 7 (Taufete 54, 6), Carey 5 (Palframan 51, 5), Bresler 7 (Fatialofa 54, 5), Kitchener 8, T Hill 7, Lewis 8 (Mama 35 7, Venter 75), du Preez 8 (van Velze 57, 6). Replacement not used: Simpson.

Chiefs: Hogg; O’Flaherty, Whitten, S Hill (Hendrickson 63), Cuthbert; Simmonds, Maunder (White 51); Hepburn (Keast 63), Yeandle, Williams, Dennis (Lonsdale 61), J Hill, Ewers, Vermeulen (Kirsten 67), Kvesic. Replacements not used: Taione, Street, Steenson.

Referee: T Foley.

Attendance: 8,598.