Andy Goode’s right boot proved the difference in the battle of the misfiring kickers as Worcester Warriors eked out a 12-3 Aviva Premiership win against Saracens at Sixways.
Goode kicked all of his points in the first half but despite failing to cross the whitewash the Warriors were good value for the win against a Sarries side shorn of many of their big names.
The visitors are still unable to call on Chris Ashton, Mouritz Botha, Mako Vunipola, Alex Goode, Brad Barritt and Owen Farrell, who are part of Stuart Lancaster’s England squad for the autumn internationals, with Schalk Brits among those also called up for other Test sides.
And Nils Mordt, who started at fly-half in the absence of Farrell and the injured Charlie Hodgson, was wayward from the kicking tee all night, finishing one from four before being replaced by Sam Stanley who also missed a penalty that would have at the very least earned Mark McCall’s troops a losing bonus point.
Saracens went into the game on the back of a four-match Aviva Premiership winning streak while the Warriors had lost three in their last five in the league and after cagey opening stages it was Goode who opened the scoring in the 11th minute, slotting over a penalty after the visitors went offside.
No sooner had Sarries gone behind however than they had a chance to level proceedings, Mordt’s re-start was claimed by David Strettle and after the Warriors infringed at the breakdown Mordt’s penalty from near halfway fell short.
Sarries came closest to the first try of the night soon after when a fine Mordt chip kick bounced into the arms of Duncan Taylor and the youngster was only denied in the corner by a fine covering tackle from Chris Pennell.
Their period of dominance did see them come away with points however when Mordt slotted over a penalty shortly afterwards to level proceedings.
The Warriors had been dealt a blow by the withdrawal through injury of Joe Carlisle, the experiment with him at inside centre lasting barely ten minutes before Alex Grove replaced him.
In Goode they had probably the game’s most inventive force but his 20th minute penalty attempt drifted narrowly wide to keep it at 3-3.
Straight from the drop-out however Warriors carved Sarries apart, Goode collecting his own chip over the top before kicking forward again to leave what looked like an easy try for winger Errie Claassens.
But the South African made a hash of it, knocking on with the try line gaping to get Saracens out of jail.
Their stay of execution was only temporary after Matt Stevens was penalised in the subsequent five-metre scrum to give Goode an easy three points which he gladly accepted on 24 minutes.
As the half hour approached Goode dragged a drop goal attempt wide that would have stretched the lead to six points and before the interval Saracens should have made him pay.
McCall’s troops dominated the last ten minutes of the first half but a clearly rusty Mordt’s penalty attempt after a late hit on the fly-half from Neil Best was pulled wide to keep it at 6-3.
And in the final two minutes of the half Goode showed him how it was done, connecting with a drop goal and then a penalty with the last kick of the period to make it 12-3.
The scoreline at the interval flattered the hosts and Saracens went about reducing their deficit straight after the break, Taylor and Richard Wigglesworth both making half breaks to come close as Warriors’ last-ditch defending held out.
But with Mordt not having his best night from the kicking tee Saracens were struggling to turn things around, the South African missing his third penalty of the night in the 51st minute.
Meanwhile the Warriors were starting to build some momentum as the second half wore on and as the hour mark approached were camped in the Saracens half before Goode dragged a another drop goal attempt wide.
Richard Hill’s men were more than matching Saracens for physicality at the breakdown and after forcing another penalty Goode’s thump from his own half drifted narrowly wide to keep the scores at 12-3.
Moments later the Warriors should have put the game to bed when Semisi Taulava broke clear, shrugging off Alistair Hargreaves, and fed inside to Nikki Walker who knocked on when a try seemed certain.
As the game entered the final quarter Warriors had the game by the scruff of the neck, Goode and Paul Hodgson in the half-backs gradually turning the screw.
In a rare foray for Sarries late on Stanley could not do better than the man he replaced, also dragging a penalty wide to sum up a poor performance from the 2011 champions as they lost at Sixways for the second successive year.