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Newcastle Falcons 12 Worcester Warriors 17
THEY may still be drinking in the Aviva Premiership ‘Last Chance Saloon,’ but Warriors earned themselves at least one more round with a brilliantly belligerent 17-12 victory over relegation rivals Newcastle Falcons.
As a spectacle, it was one of the worst games you could ever have to endure, but the confidence and renewed belief it will give to Worcester are immeasurable.
Replacement centre Andy Symons proved to be Warriors’ game-changer, coming off the bench to set up Josh Drauniniu for the only try of the match with a superb break off Ryan Lamb’s clever pass.
Worcester now trail Falcons by nine points with four games to go, so yesterday’s success has given Dean Ryan’s men a chink of light at the end of the tunnel.
Not only was it Warriors’ first win in 18 attempts this season, it also finally ended the unwanted hoodoo of not having won outside of Sixways in the league since the opening day of 2012, when they edged past Wasps 6-0 at Adams Park.
As was always going to be the case given the nature of this relegation showdown, the game was scrappy and tense.
Warriors showed glimpses of what they can do but, as has been the case all season, the bright moments were continually undermined by poor decision-making and wayward goal-kicking.
Falcons led 9-6 at the interval thanks to three Phil Godman penalties compared to two from Chris Pennell, but the Warriors full-back – and fly-half Lamb – also missed simple chances to put their side ahead.
The opening score came about through an unforced error by Warriors when scrum-half Jonny Arr fired his box-kick out on the full to give Falcons a line-out just outside the 22.
The hosts attacked from it, Worcester failed to roll away and Godman made no mistake with the simple opportunity.
Referee Tim Wigglesworth reset a scrum a couple of times after a Falcons knock-on 45 metres out and in the middle of the field, before running out of patience with the home pack and awarding a penalty that Pennell dispatched from long-range.
Understandably, both sides seemed more determined not to lose the game, rather than one of them looking to win it, so there was little for the fans to get excited about.
Despite that, as the half wore on, Warriors began to get themselves on top and Pennell put his side ahead for the first time with another well-struck penalty after Italian outside-centre Gonzalo Tiesi failed to roll away.
However, Warriors continued to take with one hand and give back with the other as they conceded a scrum penalty on their own put-in and Godman levelled the score again.
Worcester were lucky to end the half with the full set of players after a rapidly-advancing Falcons line-out drive was illegally halted and the only sanction the visitors received was three more points from Godman’s boot.
The visitors struggled in the set-pieces for most of the afternoon, but when they finally got their line-out drive working, they were rewarded with a penalty that Lamb slotted to make it 9-9, but another infringement on the floor allowed Godman to restore the Falcons’ advantage.
Arr was then scragged before the ball was out of a ruck and Lamb once more tied the game up at 12-12.
The penalty count continued to mount against Warriors, but their resolute defence ensured their line remained intact.
Newcastle were short of ideas throughout, which allowed Symons to conjure up the game’s one real moment of quality as he burst for the line and selflessly off-loaded to the supporting Drauniniu to send the loyal band of travelling Warriors fans into raptures.
Lamb missed the conversion but, crucially, Warriors were ahead and, for once, they were just about able to control the rest of the game before winning a penalty with the clock on zero – and even Worcester couldn’t snatch defeat from there.
AT A GLANCE 3m: Godman pen 3-0 8m: Pennell pen 3-3 13m: Pennell pen 3-6 22m: Godman pen 6-6 35m: Godman pen 9-6 44m: Lamb pen 9-9 47m: Godman pen 12-9 53m: Lamb pen 12-12 71m: Drauniniu try 12-17