Worcester Warriors took a huge step towards Aviva Premiership Rugby safety as they picked up four points in a 12-6 win over London Irish at Sixways.
In tricky conditions it was Tom Heathcote who kept his nerve to slot four penalties and punish Irish for their failure to finish their chances.
While the visitors looked the more likely to score a try, blowing two great opportunities, Worcester had that little extra and were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over while Irish had to wait until the closing stages to even get off the mark.
With the win Worcester secured a fourth straight victory for the first time in the top flight and now have a 16 point lead over Irish.
Worcester dominated possession and territory early on but could not turn that into points, missing one chance to take the lead when they went to the corner rather than kicking for goal.
The reason they went to the corner was that the conditions were proving tricky for kickers with a strong wind, and Irish also turned down a shot at goal after a scrum penalty.
Like their hosts, they failed to turn an attacking lineout into points, getting isolated after winning the ball initially.
Eventually it was Worcester who opened the scoring, Heathcote slotting a penalty on 27 minutes after some strong work from the forwards forced the infringement.
And when Johnny Williams strayed offside from a clearing kick a couple of minutes later, Heathcote stretched the lead to six points for the home side.
Irish had the chance to get back into it when Ryan Mills’ clearing kick was charged down but after recovering the ball, the visitors knocked on in midfield and the chance went begging.
Trailing 6-0 at the break, Irish needed to respond quickly in the second half but missed two glorious opportunities.
First Blair Cowan couldn’t hang on after a searing linebreak from Sean Maitland, and then when Williams sliced through as the visitors ran from their own 22, Ciaran Hearn knocked on with open field in front of him.
Irish kept attacking but couldn’t fight their way over, conceding a penalty on the Worcester line just as it seemed they might finally open their account.
Instead it was Worcester who made it a two-score game, Francois Hougaard getting over the ball brilliantly at a breakdown to give Heathcote the chance to add three more.
London Irish had turned down an easy shot at goal earlier in the half, and when they earned another wide on the left they again went to the corner, with Worcester able to turn the ball over and clear their lines once more.
With 11 minutes to go Irish finally got on the board, Greig Tonks knocking over a penalty to at least bring them into losing bonus point territory.
However that was soon cancelled out by Heathcote, who looked to have made the game safe with five minutes to go.
Irish did at least secure something from the game with a penalty three minutes from time, landed by Tonks.
If you want to be at the world’s biggest club rugby final, this year’s Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on 28 May, tickets are still available from premiershiprugby.com/final.