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Even-stevens at Sixways

16 Mar 2008
Even-stevens at Sixways

A spirited rearguard action and some inept Worcester execution kept Leeds’ GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP survival hopes alive for another week at Sixways on Sunday.

The match was expected to be the relegation decider but revenge was also on the Warriors’ minds after head coach Mike Ruddock said the shock 26-21 defeat to Leeds at Headingley at the start of the season prompted "a major lack of confidence" in their camp that put them in their current position.

But, after victories against Sale Sharks and Leicester in the past fortnight, Worcester put themselves 14 points clear of the basement club before kick-off and a win would almost certainly condemn the Yorkshiremen.

Leeds, though, were not ready to give up the survival fight easily and, by half-time, were very much in the hunt despite having a severe lack of territory during the opening period.

Indeed, first blood went to the Yorkshiremen as prop Mike MacDonald struck with a try from an attacking line-out that fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo converted from wide.

Leeds were then forced to batten down the hatches, however, as Worcester piled on the pressure for half an hour.

Hooker Aleki Lutui grabbed a try to reduce the arrears to two points before wing Miles Benjamin came within a whisker of adding another.

Also, referee Wayne Barnes had to go to the television match official twice as scrum-half Matt Powell and prop Tony Windo both crossed but were denied the verdict.

Worcester threw the kitchen sink at the opposition but they just could not get past a solid defence until it eventually was breached.

A powerful scrum five metres from the line saw Worcester wing Marcel Garvey drive to the posts before quick ruck ball sent Benjamin diving in at the corner to make it 10-7.

Yet, with their noses in front, Worcester went off the boil and twice Garvey was forced into last-ditch defensive duties as wing John Holtby and centre Jonny Hepworth threatened.

And the teams went in level at 10-10 when Worcester failed to roll away from a ruck and Di Bernardo booted the penalty from 25 metres.

It was all to play for but while Leeds, with Di Bernardo directing matters, made a better fist of the opening 20 minutes of the second half, Worcester had the best chance of taking the lead again when fly-half Shane Drahm and centre Dale Rasmussen combined to put their team on the opposition line.

And, when big prop Tevita Taumoepeau drove over, the TMO was called into action a third time but still frustrated the Warriors with his decision.

Again, Worcester piled on the pressure but some poor execution and handling let them down. Leeds, with number eight Adam Balding leading from the front before a leg injury saw him go off, battled bravely but only Worcester errors prevented them from going ahead.

Benjamin should have had his second try of the day but a poor pass from Rasmussen when the score was on let him down.

And as Di Bernardo cleared one final assault on the Leeds line after some excellent work from the pack, the Yorkshiremen had managed to cling on against the odds.

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