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Worcester heap more woe on Leeds

14 Oct 2005
Worcester heap more woe on Leeds

The Tykes gained scant consolation from collecting their first bonus point of a season that already has relegation written all over it unless rugby director Phil Davies can work his magic.

Skipper Justin Marshall worked tirelessly to try to lift Leeds out of the doldrums, but they never seriously threatened to score a try, and Italian fly-half Roland De Marigny booted all their points through an immaculate goalkicking display.

Worcester, in contrast, preserved their unbeaten home league record this term as wing Thinus Delport and replacement flanker Saosi Vaili scored tries, with fly-half Shane Drahm adding four penalties.

The victory keeps them in touch with the Premiership’s top four, illustrating the vast strides made since they secured top-flight status just 17 months ago.

The Warriors handed a debut to wing Aisea Havili, who joined them earlier this week from Llanelli Scarlets, while Chris Fortey filled the hooking vacancy created by South African Andre Van Niekerk’s serious shoulder injury.

Leeds were captained by their former All Blacks scrum-half Marshall, with centre Rob Vickerman making his first league start and England squad member Tom Palmer restored to second row duty after recovering from a back injury.

But Tykes’ casualty list meant they were deprived the services of full-back Iain Balshaw, centre Andre Snyman, prop Mike Shelley and lock Stuart Hooper, among others.

Leeds made an instant impression – on Drahm at least – when flanker Nathan Thomas late tackled him from the kick-off, and it set the tone for a feisty opening.

Worcester looked to get their trademark set-piece game moving, but Leeds drew first blood when De Marigny slotted a 12th-minute penalty.

It was all the Tykes could manage though, to keep Worcester’s marauding forwards at bay, with prop Chris Horsman – a strong candidate for Wales’ autumn Test squad – prominent at the coal-face.

And Leeds’ defensive wall finally cracked on 20 minutes after strong running by Havili created space, and slick passing enabled full-back Nicolas Le Roux to send Delport galloping over.

Drahm could not land the touchline conversion attempt, but Worcester had already made their presence felt up front.

Horsman continued to wage war on the Leeds pack, and Tykes lock Scott Morgan was fortunate to avoid punishment after throwing a series of punches at the prop, the first of which – a wild left hook – fortunately missed its intended target.

Drahm slotted a short-range penalty four minutes before the break, but with Leeds consistently pinned inside their own half, an 8-3 interval advantage was scant reward for Worcester’s supremacy.

As if to confirm Horsman’s demolition on his opposite number James Isaacson, the Tykes loosehead was replaced by Gavin Kerr at half-time as Leeds looked to gain some kind of foothold on the game.

Worcester, though, were in no mood to relinquish a vice-like grip, and Drahm’s second successful penalty opened up an eight-point gap before Horsman limped off.

The Warriors should have made things safe 19 minutes from time when Delport sprinted through a huge midfield gap, but his pass to an unmarked Le Roux drifted painfully into touch.

But Worcester were not to be denied, and their forwards once again came up trumps, driving a lineout relentlessly towards the Leeds line, and substitute Vaili claimed the touchdown.

De Marigny completed his penalty hat-trick with time running out, and Leeds at least had a glimmer of hope when Fortey was sin-binned, confirmed through another De Marigny penalty on 72 minutes.

Worcester were suddenly looking over their shoulders, but Drahm’s third and fourth penalties – despite another three-pointer from De Marigny – closed the game out and kept Leeds five points adrift at the Premiership basement.

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