Worcester wasted a golden opportunity to get their Guinness Premiership season off to a splendid start as they blew a 17-0 lead to lose at Franklin’s Gardens.
The performance from Northampton in the first half was worryingly disjointed but they dominated after the interval and went in front with two minutes remaining when Paul Diggin crossed for the winning try. Worcester’s Willie Walker had missed two penalties after the interval which proved expensive errors.
The visitors had the better of the opening exchanges but Northampton had the first opportunity to score after six minutes when Bruce Reihana was narrowly wide with a penalty attempt from the halfway line. Northampton maintained the pressure and Miles Benjamin was forced to concede a five-metre scrum as a clever cross-field kick from Stephen Myler saw Diggin put pressure on the Worcester left wing.
Worcester lost Olivier Sourgens, their new signing at prop, with an injury after 12 minutes but they overcame that blow to take a surprise lead six minutes later. Myler’s attempted chip ahead was gathered in by Greg King inside in his own half and he combined skilfully with Benjamin to allow the wing to run the last 22 metres to the line.
Walker converted from the touchline and three minutes later extended Worcester’s lead to 10 points with a simple penalty from 30 metres out. Worse was to follow for Northampton when with 10 minutes to go before half-time the home pack were embarrassingly pushed back in a scrum 20 metres out from their own line.
Ryan Powell picked up and following a couple of further drives Kai Horstmann crashed off for the try which Walker converted. Northampton then brought on Regardt Dreyer for Santiago Bonorino at prop.
After 36 minutes Northampton got on the score-sheet when Phil Dowson drove over from close range. The video referee confirmed the try which Myler converted, but with the last kick of the half the outside-half missed with a penalty attempt from inside his own half to leave Worcester 17-7 ahead at the break.
In the opening minutes of the second half it was Northampton who made the running, with Shane Geraghty and Reihana instrumental in trying to construct a try-scoring opportunity. But too often the home team were penalised for failing to release after tackles which prevented them building up any momentum.
They were hit further when Myler limped off with an ankle injury, but moments later they had a stroke of good fortune when Walker’s 40-metre penalty attempt came back off a post.
After a scoreless opening quarter, Worcester were penalised at a line-out, enabling Geraghty to kick a penalty. And four minutes later he added another to cut the visitors’ advantage to only four points. With 13 minutes to go Northampton were offside at a ruck but Walker missed another kick and the stand-off was then sin-binned with seven minutes to go.
The loss proved crucial for the visitors, and with two minutes remaining Worcester were outflanked and Diggin landed the winning try which Geraghty converted from wide out.