Greig Laidlaw’s late pressure kick helped Gloucester Rugby produce a stirring comeback and snatch a 23-23 draw at Sixways in the M5 derby with Worcester Warriors.
Worcester looked set to claim a first Aviva Premiership Rugby victory of the season but Laidlaw’s flawless kicking performance combined with late scores from Henry Purdy and Matt Scott turned the game in Gloucester’s favour.
David Humphreys’ men piled the pressure on in the final minutes of the game and were camped on Worcester’s try line but they were unable to force their way over to claim a first win of the season.
Ryan Lamb kicked five points and was also instrumental in a score for Cooper Vuna as Worcester bounced back from last week’s heavy defeat by defending champions Saracens at Twickenham.
Worcester new recruit Ben Te’o was also impressive for the Warriors before being replaced at the break, with a barnstorming display that produced a first-half score, while Perry Humphreys added a fantastic solo third score.
Gloucester Rugby started like an express train at Sixways, picking up early penalties as Worcester were continually penalised at the breakdown.
The Cherry and Whites threw away a winning position last weekend against Leicester Tigers in their Aviva Premiership opener and in the early stages against Worcester looked like a team determined to right their previous wrongs.
Gloucester went ahead after only two minutes as Scotland international Laidlaw fired over a penalty, continuing his recent impressive run off the tee that has seen him score 28 of last 29 shots at goal.
Worcester’s fixture with the Cherry and Whites saw the club trial their new state-of-the-art 4G playing surface and the Warriors looked as tentative as the visitors in the early stages.
Worcester Warriors had slipped to five straight defeats in Aviva Premiership Rugby prior to kick-off and in the opening ten minutes against Gloucester they struggled to get their hands on the ball.
Gloucester thought they had scored the game’s opening try on 11 minutes – Billy Twelvetrees created the opportunity with a tackle, Gloucester and pounced on the loose ball and Charlie Sharples touched down only to have the try disallowed.
Worcester had a five-metre scrum deep into Gloucester territory on 15 minutes after Jackson Willison bundled a Cherry and Whites defender over his own line following a lengthy foot race – but the Warriors were unable to take advantage.
For all of their early dominance, it was Gloucester who conceded the game’s first try – England newboy Te’o crashed over the Worcester try-line after a clever inside pass. Lamb was unable to add the extras from the kicking tee.
Laidlaw pulled Gloucester back into the game with his second penalty of the evening on 25 minutes but the lead was short-lived.
Worcester scored their second try of the evening just five minutes later as Vuna raced in unopposed into the corner after a clever pass from Lamb engineered the opportunity. The Warriors No.10 then added the extras to make the score 12-6.
Lamb then extended Worcester’s lead with a smartly taken penalty to give Gloucester a mountain to climb as the game approached half-time.
Veteran Irish lock Donncha O’Callaghan was penalised for not rolling away within a minute of the restart for Worcester and Laidlaw took full advantage to move Gloucester back to within six points.
Lamb should have added to Worcester’s lead on 47 minutes but his long range penalty struck the woodwork.
Alafoti Fa’osiliva was sent off on 50 minutes, but Worcester continued to threaten with 14 men and raced through to score their third try of the game just before the hour.
Replacement wing Perry Humphreys received the ball with a lot to do but the Worcester wing beat three men to score in the corner to extend the lead to 20-9 – Lamb was unable to add the extras.
Gloucester were handed a lifeline just after the hour mark as Cherry and Whites newboy Scott produced a smart finish to bundle his way over, with the ever-reliable Laidlaw adding the extras.
Worcester extended their lead to 23-16 as Tom Heathcote fired over a penalty for the Warriors on 68 minutes but Gloucester refused to lie down.
Henry Purdy went over for Gloucester’s second score of the night just a minute later, dotting down in the corner, while Laidlaw nailed a hugely difficult conversion to level the scores at 23-23.
For all their late pressure, Gloucester were unable to add to their haul and were forced to settle for a hard-earned draw.