Worcester Warriors ended their six-year stay in the Guinness Premiership with a one-point defeat to neighbours Gloucester at Sixways. But they nearly snatched victory with the last kick of the game when replacement Willie Walker hit a 22-metre drop-goal against an upright.
Worcester rang the changes to the starting line-up for the game from the team which lost at Leeds Carnegie in their do-or-die Guinness Premiership relegation clash a fortnight ago. Gloucester, meanwhile, made one switch from the team which beat London Irish in their last league clash as England number eight Luke Narraway came in for Adam Eustace.
There was another absentee from that Leeds game for Worcester with caretaker coach Andrew Stanley picking the team after the departure of rugby director Mike Ruddock. And the home side started well as fly-half Joe Carlisle began a good move that led to wing Chris Pennell going over for the first try of the match.
There could have been another when Australian full-back star Chris Latham, playing his final game after a two-year stay, went over only for the try to be ruled out for offside. But Gloucester took their first chance to get points on the board when Welsh fly-half Nicky Robinson launched over a 35 metre penalty.
And soon the Cherry and Whites took the lead when pressure inside the home 22 saw the ball run loose on the right wing and give flanker Akapusi Qera a run-in down the touchline from 20 metres. Worcester were unlucky not to get an attacking scrum when Gloucester full-back Olly Morgan fumbled a kick into his 22 over the line and appeared to accidentally touch it down before clearing. But it was not spotted by any of the officials.
Gloucester went further ahead when a clever kick to the corner saw former England wing Lesley Vainikolo just beat the cover for the try. The Cherry and Whites had the run of possession in the half but Worcester went into the break in front after Robinson threw a pass on halfway only to see centre Alex Grove neatly intercept and race unopposed to the posts, giving Carlisle a simple conversion for a 15-13 scoreline.
But, as both teams rang the changes in the third quarter, the match’s intensity waned as Gloucester’s handling became haphazard, while Worcester struggled to mount any meaningful attacks. Carlisle had a penalty chance just after the break but missed, while Robinson’s second penalty of the afternoon on the hour put Gloucester into a one-point advantage.
Worcester’s one meaningful attack at that stage saw them gain significant possession inside the Gloucester 22 but a strong defence refused to buckle as the move fizzled out. But the game sparked into life again in the last 10 minutes. Gloucester hooker Scott Lawson looked to have wrapped up the victory as he emerged from a pile of bodies after an attacking line-out win by Narraway for Robinson to convert and produce an eight-point gap.
However, Worcester would not give in and had the visitors struggling in their own 22. Then, after a ruck was turned over on the line, Robinson was caught unable to clear on the dead-ball line. He ran left but was tap-tackled for the ball to run loose and Latham to pounce for the try.
Carlisle’s conversion set up a furious finish as Worcester went for only their fifth league win of the season and they nearly snatched it with a drop-goal from Walker only for it to agonisingly hit the post and Gloucester cleared to touch to secure a narrow victory.