Planet Rugby

Worcester fight the dying of the light

03rd March 2007 17:42

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delport scores Worcester Bath

Double Trouble: Delport pulls the plug on Bath

Worcester Warriors, favourites for the drop, boosted their Guinness Premiership survival chances by digging deep to record a first home league win of the season in the shape of a gritty 21-15 win over Bath on Saturday.

The hosts duly closed the gap on 11th-placed Northampton - beaten at home by Gloucester - to four points after wing Thinus Delport scored two tries.

But Saints still have a game in hand and three of Worcester's five remaining away fixtures are away from home against Sale Sharks, Bristol and London Irish.

Shane Drahm kept Bath at a relatively safe distance by kicking three penalties and a conversion, although the west country club secured a losing bonus point through substitute Shaun Berne's late touchdown.

Bath also claimed a first-half try by Chris Malone but lock Steve Borthwick's 45th-minute departure through injury - it could affect his chances of an England recall against France next week - saw the visitors lose momentum.

A bumper Sixways crowd gave Worcester a standing ovation at the final whistle and Bath could have few complaints after they failed to produce enough attacking momentum against a team scrapping for continued membership of English rugby's elite.

It was Bath's 10th successive away league defeat, but Worcester will travel with renewed confidence to face champions Sale in Stockport next Friday night.

Worcester knew the clock was ticking loudly on their Premiership survival prospects, but they started in confident fashion against a Bath side whose last league away win came more than 12 months ago.

The Warriors' attacking game appeared sharper than in recent weeks and they sliced Bath open with a well-worked try on nine minutes.

Number eight Kai Horstmann secured quality lineout possession, and when the ball was eventually moved wide, South African Delport dived over to score.

Drahm landed the touchline conversion and Worcester continued to threaten as they nullified a Bath pack containing five England internationals.

Warriors skipper Pat Sanderson engaged in various off-the-ball skirmishes with Bath locks Borthwick and Danny Grewcock, but the visitors hauled themselves level through a soft score nine minutes before the break.

Worcester lock Craig Gillies lost possession in open play and although Bath's subsequent attacking threat looked to have been snuffed out, Drahm saw an attempted clearance kick charged down by Malone, who crossed unopposed.

Barkley slotted the simple conversion, and Worcester's sense of frustration was highlighted by Sanderson stamping in a ruck which earned the England flanker a lecture from referee Dave Pearson.

But the Warriors stuck to their task and a 40-metre Drahm penalty edged them 10-7 ahead at the interval.

Worcester boss John Brain made two half-time changes, replacing injured fly-half James Brown with Lee Best - Drahm moved from full-back to number 10 - while 37-year-old prop Tony Windo replaced Darren Morris.

Bath though, were also in the wars as Borthwick left to be replaced by Peter Short.

Worcester were pegged back by a Barkley penalty, yet they resumed a degree of control through two penalties in three minutes from Drahm as Grewcock found himself under increasing lineout pressure opposite a fired-up Gillies.

The Warriors, whose last home league success came against Newcastle more than 10 months ago, were desperate for another score to give themselves a hint of a comfort zone.

And it arrived with eight minutes remaining after superb lineout work by Gillies sent replacement hooker Aleki Lutui scurrying clear, before scrum-half Matt Powell sent an unmarked Delport over.

Worcester looked to have done enough, and so it proved, despite Berne giving them a late attack of nerves.

The scorers:

For Worcester Warriors:

Tries: Delport 2

Con: Drahm

Pens: Drahm 3

For Bath:

Tries: Malone, Berne

Con: Barkley

Pen: Barkley

The teams:

Worcester Warriors: 15 Shane Drahm, 14 Aisea Havili, 13 Dale Rasmussen, 12 Gary Trueman, 11 Thinus Delport, 10 James Brown, 9 Matt Powell, 8 Kai Horstmann, 7 Pat Sanderson (c), 6 Drew Hickey, 5 Phil Murphy, 4 Craig Gillies, 3 Tevita Taumoepeau, 2 Chris Fortey, 1 Darren Morris.

Replacements: 16 Tony Windo, 17 Aleki Lutui, 18 Tim Collier, 19 Tom Harding, 20 Nick Runciman, 21 Mark Tucker, 22 Lee Best

Bath: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Joe Maddock, 13 Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu, 12 Olly Barkley, 11 David Bory, 10 Chris Malone, 9 Nick Walshe, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Michael Lipman, 6 Andy Beattie, 5 Danny Grewcock, 4 Steve Borthwick (c), 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Lee Mears, 1 David Barnes.

Replacements: 16 Pieter Dixon, 17 Aaron Jarvis, 18 Peter Short, 19 James Scaysbrook, 20 Chev Walker, 21 Andy Williams, 22 Shaun Berne.

Referee: Dave Pearson

Touch judges: Paul Dix , Ken Stewart

Assessor: Colin High

Television match official: David Hudson

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