Worcester’s fight for Guinness Premiership survival suffered another huge setback as leaders Leicester ground out an unspectacular 13-6 victory at Sixways.
Warriors slumped to their seventh home league defeat from eight starts this season – form which suggests they could find themselves back in National League One next term following a three-year spell among the English rugby elite. Leicester rested three of their forwards on RBS 6 Nations duty for England against Ireland next Saturday – hooker George Chuter, lock Louis Deacon and number eight Martin Corry – but Worcester could not take advantage.
Without a home league success since April 29, they again lacked the necessary cutting edge to slice open a defence as well-organised and physical as Leicester’s, and a losing bonus point provided scant consolation. Worcester’s consistent failure to score tries has undermined their domestic campaign, and it will take a Herculean effort to avoid relegation now, especially with away games against title play-off contenders Gloucester, Sale Sharks and Bristol remaining on the fixture list.
Leicester, though, opened up a five-point gap at the Premiership summit over Bristol, who host struggling Newcastle tomorrow, despite never threatening to hit top gear. Corry and his England colleagues wisely stayed at home, missing an error-strewn encounter which only occasionally flickered into life.
Leicester wing Seru Rabeni scored the solitary try, while fly-half Ian Humphreys slotted a conversion and two penalties to take Tigers past the half-century Premiership points mark. They closed the game out despite late Worcester pressure, expertly guided home by England scrum-half Harry Ellis, who appeared as a 71st-minute substitute. Both Ellis and England replacement prop Julian White, a starter in Leicester’s front row, emerged unscathed from a typically attritional Premiership contest, which will be music to the ears of England head coach Brian Ashton.
Worcester lock Craig Gillies made his 100th Premiership appearance and Ryan Powell replaced suspended scrum-half Matt Powell, but both sides struggled for continuity after a three-week break from Premiership action, and Leicester relied on a route-one approach to blow open Worcester’s defence. Wing Alesana Tuilagi, whose power terrorised Worcester when he received the ball in space, smashed his way past Warriors hooker Chris Fortey and quickly-recycled possession saw Rabeni cross unopposed. Humphreys added the conversion and kicked a penalty during first-half injury-time, but the interim period saw Worcester shade the territorial battle.
Rival scrum-halves Powell and Frank Murphy were sin-binned by referee David Rose following an off-the-ball skirmish, and Leicester soon found themselves reduced to 13 men after Drahm’s opening penalty strike.
Tigers number eight Brett Deacon received a yellow card for an offence at a ruck, yet Worcester could only manage another Drahm penalty as they failed to breach Leicester’s defence. Humphreys’ angled three-pointer gave Leicester a 10-6 interval advantage, and Worcester boss John Brain made a substitution within two minutes of the restart, sending on Wales prop Chris Horsman for Tevita Taumoepeau.
Horsman, though, immediately conceded a penalty, and Humphreys gratefully accepted the chance, leaving Worcester a converted try adrift for most of the second period. Humphreys missed two kicks at goal before Ellis arrived to orchestrate a solid Leicester finale when the Tigers forwards camped deep inside Worcester’s 22.
Warriors skipper Pat Sanderson, a tireless presence throughout, tried to rally his team for one last stamina-sapping effort, but Leicester had enough knowhow and composure to keep Worcester where they had been for most of the match – away from Tigers’ line.