Worcester went top of the Guinness Premiership after they brushed aside newly-promoted Leeds at Sixways.
A second-half surge, inspired by fly-half Willie Walker, saw Worcester score 14 unanswered points in 10 minutes. And while such lofty Guinness Premiership status is likely to last less than 24 hours, the Warriors can still reflect on a satisfactory start to their sixth successive season in English rugby’s top flight.
Leeds though, look destined to endure a long survival battle. They scored a classy first-half try through centre Jonny Hepworth, and former England scrum-half Andy Gomarsall used his vast experience to good effect, yet Worcester were never seriously threatened.
Centre Alex Grove and wing Marcel Garvey claimed well-executed touchdowns, while Walker’s contribution of a drop-goal, four penalties and a conversion underpinned Warriors’ victory charge. Not even Grove’s 60th-minute sin-binning could offer Leeds a route back into the contest.
And the Yorkshiremen must now brace themselves for a tough run of games against London Irish, Northampton and Gloucester during the next three weeks. But Worcester are out of the starting blocks, with five points from two games ahead of next weekend’s trip to Wasps.
Worcester showed two changes from the side that blew a 17-0 lead against Northampton last weekend, with their New Zealand centre Sam Tuitupou making a first Guinness Premiership appearance in 2009 after recovering from serious knee trouble, and Tevita Taumoepeau replacing injured prop Olivier Sourgens.
Leeds, without a Guinness Premiership away win since November 2005, called up hooker Rob Rawlinson and number eight Alfie To’oala following a 9-9 home draw against Newcastle five days ago. Worcester showed no sign of a hangover from their painful Franklin’s Gardens experience as Walker slotted an early penalty and the home forwards displayed immediate dominant signs.
Warriors could not initially make that control count in terms of tries though, and Leeds stung them by scoring from their first noteworthy attack. Some last-ditch defending by home scrum-half Ryan Powell could not prevent a scrum near the Worcester line, and quickfire first-phase possession resulted in Hepworth slicing through Warriors’ midfield defence for a quality touchdown.
Thomas converted, but the lead lasted just four minutes, with Worcester prospering after a well-placed kick by Walker had the visitors back-pedalling. Slick passing then freed Grove, and the 21-year-old Worcester academy product powered over, handing off a half-hearted Leeds challenge in the process. It was a fine finish by Grove, and Walker’s successful conversion gave the home side a 10-7 advantage.
Despite Worcester continuing to dominate territory and possession, they drew a blank in terms of any more points before the break as Leeds remained within striking range.
The Warriors had been guilty of over-complicating matters, especially around the forward fringes, where a more direct approach would undoubtedly have reaped rewards. Rugby director Mike Ruddock’s interval team-talk had the desired effect though, as Walker eased them into a commanding position.
Two penalties and a 40-metre drop-goal during four virtuoso minutes put Leeds in deep trouble, yet Worcester had not finished with their third-quarter scoring blitz. The visitors could not release a stranglehold Walker had exerted, and Garvey effectively finished the game as a contest when he darted over from 30 metres out.
A yellow card for Grove stalled Worcester’s momentum, yet another Walker penalty four minutes from time gave him a 17-point haul and wrapped up an emphatic home success.