In a match which was rather more remarkable for the tension and passion than the skill levels, the local rivals cancelled each other out and no tries were scored.
Worcester – who maintained their Premiership status with a magnificent surge towards the end of last season – went with the same team who secured their top-flight stay. None of their summer signings, including Andy Gomarsall, were named in the starting 15 in contrast to Gloucester who gave debuts to England centre Mike Tindall and sevens flyer Peter Richards.
And it was the visitors who got to grips with the occasion quicker than their hosts as they sped into a 6-0 lead. The returning Ludovic Mercier knocked over a delicious drop goal following a strong forward surge from the Kingsholm pack and the Frenchman added a 10th-minute penalty to give the Cherry and Whites a solid platform.
However, the Warriors – buoyed by a record 9,726 Sixways crowd – hit back with some energetic forays into the Gloucester 22. Had it not been for the visitors’ line-out defence, Worcester could have made much more of their territorial advantage.
Gloucester looked to have more ideas outside but Worcester’s pack was once again punching its weight in the Premiership. Their physicality was having an immediate effect with Jake Boer and Adam Balding both having to leave the field early on after hefty challenges.
Despite finding it difficult to get going, Worcester eventually sparked into life on the half hour and their pressure eventually told. Three James Brown penalties in the final eight minutes of the first half put the Warriors 9-6 ahead, much to the delight of the crowd. Gloucester replied in injury time with a stunning 57-metre penalty to level things up as both sides went in 9-9 at the break.
Brown edged the hosts in front early in the second period with another cool three- pointer but Mercier responded to keep Gloucester level in a match which was becoming increasingly stop-start under the watchful eye of referee Ashley Rowden.
The penalties kept on coming and this time it was Brown’s turn to try with a long-range effort. The former London Irish man was off target with that one but, midway through the half, he had an easier chance – in front of the posts – which he gobbled up to give Worcester the lead once again.
It was his last contribution before giving way to new Australian signing Shane Drahm while Chris Fortey – signed from Gloucester – made his Sixways debut against his former club.
Another new signing – Gloucester’s Rob Thirlby – was denied by a last-ditch tackle from Jon Hylton as Dean Ryan’s men went for the kill. And another flying move from their back line led to a Worcester offside which Mercier punished with a 71st-minute penalty as the scores were once again level.
Drahm had the chance to snatch the game for the home side, three minutes before the end, but his 55-metre penalty effort was just off target.