Wasps moved to within one point of the Aviva Premiership Rugby summit but missed out on a bonus point in their 26-12 victory at Worcester Warriors.
Brendan Macken’s first-minute intercept score, the fastest in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season, got the visitors underway in perfect style, with Rob Miller’s five kicks helping them to a 19-12 first-half lead.
But the Warriors were far from cut adrift, a quartet of Jamie Shillcock penalties their influence on the scoreboard.
Man-of-the-match Dan Robson’s touch of second-half class earned a second try as Wasps held their own, back within touching distance of league leaders Saracens in their two-try success.
And they wasted little time getting underway at Sixways, with Macken at his usual, sharp best to break the line at the right time and intercept from Shillcock, running under the posts with less than a minute played.
GREATTTTTT START FOR Wasps. TRY BRENDAN MACKEN from an interception as he picked off the pass from Worc first set play 0-5
— Wasps (@WaspsRugby) December 4, 2016
Wasps boasted much of the early ball, but a trade in penalties from Shillcock and Miller – both looking deadly from the tee – kept the game on a knife-edge.
But a far from perfect line-out derailed Worcester attacks, losing three in a row before a bustling 18-phase attack saw the attack coming back for a penalty, allowing Shillcock cut the deficit to one point at 10-9.
It could have been better for the hosts, Cooper Vuna marauding his way down the left before running out of legs, only for fly-half Miller – in for the injured Danny Cipriani – to extend Wasps’ lead heading into the break at 19-12.
🎥 "It was nice to be back but that wasn't the result we wanted."
Sam Lewis talks to Warriors TV after making his first Premiership start… pic.twitter.com/QNCbxVjKYs
— Worcester Warriors🏉 (@WorcsWarriors) December 4, 2016
Knowing a bonus-point win could take them back to Aviva Premiership Rugby top-spot, Dai Young’s team came out firing in the second period, scrum-half Robson the architect.
He profited from a gap in the Warriors’ backline, bursting his way through for the second score of the afternoon, the only points after the interval.
Despite the two-score advantage, Wasps were far of assured of the spoils as the hosts piled forward heading into the closing quarter, Vuna coming within inches of the line before a fumble broke down the opportunity.
With both sides sensing the next, key score, the running rugby ramped up at Sixways, Worcester in particular lapping up the phases with ball in hand.
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) December 4, 2016
But with the fluency unable to translate into points, the running became desperate towards the last ten minutes.
Still Worcester came however, keen to get their first points of the half, regularly thwarted by a resolute Wasps defence showing their experience in the latter stages.
They were not without their new heads though, Ben Harris coming on his first Wasps appearance in Aviva Premiership Rugby, while Piers O’Conor started for his debut.
But the Warriors were unable to break through, forced to register their smallest home haul in defeat this season.