Worcester Warriors eased their Premiership relegation concerns when they beat fellow basement dwellers Bristol 41-24 at Sixways on Sunday.
Gary Gold’s men started quickly and went 10-0 in front in the opening six minutes thanks to a penalty try and Ryan Mills’ three-pointer. Gavin Henson reduced the arrears from the tee before Francois Hougaard and Jason Woodward traded scores.
However, 14 unanswered points via Will Spencer and Bryce Heem gave the Warriors a 31-10 lead at the interval. Heem extended that further before Bristol mounted a fight-back of sorts as Max Crumpton and Tom Varndell crossed the whitewash, but Wynand Olivier sealed the five points to plunge their opponents closer to the Championship.
This was almost billed as a winner-takes-all encounter with the West Countrymen going into the game just two points behind the Midlanders in the table.
However, there was a distinct lack of energy by the visitors in the early exchanges and Worcester duly benefited from their lethargy. Immediately, the hosts earned a five-metre lineout and, with Mark Tainton’s men being sent into reverse, Dan Tuohy collapsed the maul. Referee Wayne Barnes had little option other than to award a penalty try and send Tuohy to the sin-bin.
With the lock serving 10 minutes off the field, Bristol were already under pressure and a Mills three-pointer only increased their issues. Henson did respond from the tee but Hougaard’s superb finish, where he latched onto Marc Jones’ overthrow, handed off Varndell and touched down, gave the Warriors a 14-point buffer.
Although Woodward hit back from close range, the away side’s defence was looking increasingly porous and Spencer powered over for the Midlands outfit’s third try.
Heem then scampered clear and even at half-time this relegation tussle was already decided. Bristol did have opportunities in the third quarter but they, and particularly Varndell, were often forced into touch when the ball was moved wide.
It relieved the pressure and the hosts were more than willing to take their chances when they came and Josh Adams fed Heem for his second score.
Crumpton and Varndell crossed the whitewash for the Bristolians but it was too late for any comeback as Olivier confirmed the win late on.
For Worcester Warriors:
Tries: Hougaard, Spencer, Heem 2, Olivier, Penalty try
Cons: Mills 4
Yellow Card: Heem
Tries: Woodward, Crumpton, Varndell
Cons: Henson, Woodward, Wallace
Yellow Card: Tuohy
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (c), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Perry Humphreys
Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward 14 David Lemi, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Tom Varndell 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Alby Mathewson 8 Jordan Crane (c), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Ryan Bevington
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Jack Wallace
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley, Paul Dix
TMO: David Grashoff