Hooker Mark Regan gave England an injury scare just seven days before the opening RBS 6 Nations Championships clash with Wales as Worcester finally won their first GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP match of the season.
The Warriors turned in a masterful performance once they got going but Bristol coach Richard Hill will probably glad of the forthcoming break in league action to restore some confidence in his wounded side.
It was a crunch fixture for both sides. Bristol were just one place above their opponents before kick-off, having had a league point deducted for fielding an ineligible player – on-loan scrum-half Haydn Thomas – last month.
But victory was even more crucial for Worcester and particularly their director of rugby Mike Ruddock, the 2005 Welsh Grand Slam-winning coach, who took over last May but was yet to see his team win a Premiership match.
But first blood went to the West Country side when wing Tom Arscott collected his own chip over the Worcester defence on the left wing to go in at the corner after 10 minutes.
Fly-half Loki Crichton hit back with a penalty from 22 metres for the Warriors and soon they had Bristol scrapping for possession during the first half.
Only some solid Bristol defence kept Worcester at bay and it would have helped Bristol’s cause if they had decent line-out platform but Regan warmed up for next Saturday with an inept throwing display.
One unlikely star of the match was Worcester prop Darren Morris, who had a couple of runs, charging down the left for one of them and hopping past the opposition on the 22 in another.
But, after the break, Worcester began to sort themselves out and hardly gave Bristol a chance.
Regan’s worrying walk to the dressing room after 42 minutes with a shoulder problem was soon followed by a walk to the sin-bin from his captain Matt Salter after he killed the ball on his own line while desperately defending it.
Crichton kicked the resulting 20 metre penalty but missed another moments later from almost the same spot. However, Worcester had their opposition reeling as their pack pounded the depleted Bristol eight.
The pressure paid off as captain Pat Sanderson marked his first game back from injury with a forwards try after a rolling maul saw Bristol’s resistance disintegrate.
And Worcester stormed over for a third try when Crichton sent big New Zealand second row Greg Rawlinson charging to the posts, with the fly-half converting.
It gave Worcester a 17-point lead and their inspiring second-half display and the frustration of the West Countrymen was summed up when Bristol reached their best position of the match, a line-out two metres from the try-line.
But Regan’s replacement, Scott Linklater, messed up his throw which allowed the home side to clear.
And a well-worked corner try for centre Dale Rasmussen, put over by All Black star Rico Gear, signalled celebrations for the home fans at Sixways as they finally got that first Premiership win.