Worcester and Bristol share the spoils at Sixways
December 20, 2008
Lee Robinson dives in to score for Bristol at Sixways
© Getty Images
A last-minute penalty from Ed Barnes gave Bristol a thoroughly deserved draw against Worcester at Sixways. The battling Bristol side were the more creative throughout the Guinness Premiership clash, however the sin-binning of the impressive Lee Robinson early in the second half was a major blow to their hopes of a first away league win of the season.
Bristol began poorly in their previous three matches and Richard Hill, their director of rugby, had warned his players earlier in the week they could not afford to start this match slowly. His side were competitive in the opening 20 minutes and although Worcester had the better of those early exchanges there was little sign of them breaking through.
Worcester secured most of the set-piece possession but determined tackling and good foraging by the Bristol forwards comfortably kept the home side at bay. Against the run of play Bristol had the chance to open the scoring.
Neil Brew, the Bristol centre, made the first clean break of the game but as he went to pass the ball to Robinson, Dale Rasmussen tackled the man before the ball and was yellow-carded by the ever-alert Wayne Barnes.
Ed Barnes missed the penalty but Bristol began to dominate and deservedly took the lead with a splendid try after 28 minutes. They spun the ball cleverly along the line for Luke Arscott to put the strong-running Robinson away. The ball was recycled quickly and Dan Ward-Smith saw a gap and powered past two defenders to score a try which Barnes converted.
Eoghan Hickie, on loan from London Irish, reduced the arrears to 7-3 with a penalty from 45 metres. Back came Bristol with Robinson kicking ahead to place Worcester under pressure, Hickie's clearance kick was charged down and Barnes kicked the simple penalty.
With the last kick of the half Hickie missed a 25-metre penalty to leave Bristol 10-3 ahead at the interval. Worcester came out strongly in the second half and within minutes Robinson was sin-binned which put the visiting side severely under the cosh.
Wayne Barnes was again in action minutes later when awarding Worcester a penalty try as the Bristol scrum broke up close to their line. Hickie converted to level the scores. Robinson returned from his spell in the sin-bin but it was Worcester who took the lead for the first time in the match when Hickie picked a penalty after 56 minutes.
That lead was short-lived and within three minutes Bristol went ahead by scoring another excellently constructed try. They won a line-out on the home 22 and spun the ball wide for Robinson to crash over in the corner, Barnes converting from the touch-line with a superb kick.
With 12 minutes to go Worcester at last produced something of note. Ryan Powell had just been introduced at scrum-half and his quick service got some momentum in Worcester's play.
They made 50 yards with good ball control before Chris Latham triumphantly dived over in the corner. Hickie hammered the kick over from the touch-line before Barnes' kick gave Bristol a share of the spoils.
Worcester boss Mike Ruddock was furious with his side's inability to close out the game after Chris Latham's try. "I've told the players this - it was a fantastic try by Latham, enough for us to win and close out the game," said Ruddock. "When Latham's crucial kick went into touch we should have had people up to mark it but they took it quickly, went away and got that vital penalty.
"We did enough to win the game but we let them back in. I thought we were the better side, we had the better of the second half and should have got the result. It was a massive game for Bristol, it was a cup final for them and they battled and battled and scrapped for their lives."
Worcester made a nervous start and were behind after half an hour following Ward-Smith's score. "It was a good battle. Everyone was a bit nervous at first, it was played like chess and everyone played a big kicking game frightened to make a mistake," said Ruddock. "Dale Rasmussen's sin-binning (after 20 minutes) was vital for us as up until then we were in no danger."
Bristol boss Richard Hill was delighted with his team's gutsy performance, dragging themselves back level at the close. "I was very pleased, we had the will and determination to tackle which we have been lacking this season," he said. "We had tremendous physicality to our defence. Our players didn't give in even when they had their tails up late on and even though our confidence must have been fragile we battled to the end and Ed Barnes kept his nerve to land a great kick, but we've only had about 60% success with our kicks.
"Our try was a textbook score, we have practised that many times on the training ground and it's paid off. Lee Robinson's sin-binning was crucial for us for with Dan Ward-Smith on the wing the penalty try was almost inevitable. Still it's two points for us and we are now only one point behind Newcastle and ultimately I thought a draw was a fair enough result."
Worcester: Latham; Gear, Rasmussen, Tuitupou, Pennell; Hickey, M Powell; Mullen, Lutui, Taumoepeau, Gillies, Rawlinson, Talei, Sanderson, Horstmann.
Replacements: Horsman, Fortey, Bowley, Cox, R Powell, Carlisle, Luscombe.
Bristol: Arscott; Robinson, Brew, Eves, Lemi; Barnes, Perry (capt); Clarke, Regan, Hobson; Sambucetti, Sidoli; Budgett, To'oala, Ward-Smith.
Replacements: Linklater, Crompton, Attwood, Phillips, Beveridge, Jarvis, Barden.