Warriors secure vital win over Bristol
PREMIERSHIP SUNDAY WRAP: Francois Hougaard and Bryce Heem were instrumental as Worcester Warriors secured a try bonus point in beating Bristol 41-24 at Sixways Stadium on Sunday.
The vital five-point win moves the Warriors seven points clear of Bristol in the Premiership table and within five of Sale Sharks in 10th.
Hougaard scored one and fed Heem for a second try as the Warriors scored four first-half tries with the Worcester wing touching down again after the break.
Max Crumpton and Tom Varndell added late consolation tries for Bristol.
In Sunday's other match, Saracens welcomed back Billy Vunipola in style as they scored five tries in an impressive 35-27 victory at Newcastle Falcons.
The England loose forward made his first start in four months and the defending Premiership champions were ruthless throughout as Alex Lozowski scored two tries – while Mike Rhodes, Chris Ashton and Nathan Earle also scored.
The Falcons stayed within touching distance for most of the game until Sarries pulled away late on but they did score three times themselves through Dominic Waldouck, Vereniki Goneva and David Wilson.
The result sees Saracens close the gap on second-placed Exeter Chiefs, while Newcastle remain eighth.
Worcester Warriors 41-24 Bristol
Warriors could not have had a better start to the game as Bristol's Dan Tuohy was penalised, and shown a yellow card, for entering a driving maul heading towards the try line in the side.
Referee Wayne Barnes had no hesitation in awarding the hosts a penalty try with barely two minutes played and Ryan Mills converted before adding a penalty to make it 10-0.
With 15 minutes played Bryce Heem was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle and Gavin Henson was soon able to get Bristol on the scoreboard with a penalty kick.
But the influential Francois Hougaard had his try when he collected an overthrown Bristol line-out and danced past Jordan Crane and held off Tom Varndell for Worcester's second try.
Mills was once again on target with the boot to make the score 17-3 with 20 minutes played.
A five-metre driving maul was then the instrument for Bristol's first try with fly-half Jason Woodward cutting a nice line at first receiver to dart over.
Henson added the conversion but Worcester had their third try soon after as Will Spencer crashed over to extend the home side's lead to 24-10 with Mills' conversion.
And another excellent run from scrumhalf Hougaard set up the bonus point score as he collected a Warriors line-out and stormed through a gap before offloading to Bryce Heem for an easy run in.
Mills added the conversion to give the Warriors a 31-10 lead at the break.
After 20 scoreless second half minutes, most of which saw the Warriors on the defensive, the hosts had their fifth try of the afternoon through Heem.
The wing was part of the initial break and then found himself outside Josh Adams who timed his pass perfectly to put Heem into the corner uncontested for a 36-10 lead.
Max Crumpton stretched over from close range for the visitors' second try to give Bristol hope with Henson adding the conversion with 12 minutes left to play before an interception try from his own 22 for Varndell.
But Wynand Olivier gave Worcester the final say as he collected a kick through from Mills to dive over as Warriors’ surpassed 40 points for just the second time in the Premiership.
For Worcester Warriors:
Tries: Hougaard, Spencer, Heem 2, Olivier, Penalty try
Cons: Mills 4
Tries: Woodward, Crumpton, Varndell
Cons: Henson, Woodward, Wallace
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Wynand Olivier, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Ryan Mills, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Chris Vui, 5 Will Spencer, 4 Donncha O’Callaghan (captain), 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Joe Taufete'e, 1 Val Rapava Ruskin.
Replacements: 16 Matti Williams, 17 Ryan Bower, 18 Biyi Alo, 19 Tevita Cavubati, 20 Dewald Potgieter, 21 Luke Baldwin, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Perry Humphreys.
Bristol: 15 Jason Woodward 14 David Lemi, 13 Will Hurrell, 12 Siale Piutau, 11 Tom Varndell 10 Gavin Henson, 9 Alby Mathewson 8 Jordan Crane (captain), 7 Jack Lam, 6 Mitch Eadie, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Dan Tuohy, 3 Gaston Cortes, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Max Crumpton, 17 Jack O’Connell, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Rhodri Williams, 22 Tusi Pisi, 23 Jack Wallace,
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Assistant Referees: Matthew Carley, Paul Dix
TMO: David Grashoff
Newxastle Falcons 27-35 Saracens
All eyes were on England international Billy Vunipola, as he returned to Saracens' team for the first time in four months after a lengthy absence with a knee injury.
Vunipola was not the only player Mark McCall could select after injury – with wing Sean Maitland deemed fit after a rib problem.
Newcastle also had a pre-match boost, with Mark Wilson back in the team after illness and the hosts took an early leads through Sonatane Takulua's penalty.
But Vunipola, eager to make an impact on his first game back, was never going to make a quiet introduction – and his powerful run forced a penalty which Alex Lozowski sent sailing through the posts.
And minutes later the champions hit the front as Mike Rhodes intercepted a pass and strolled to score the game's opening try on his 50th Sarries appearance.
Newcastle huffed and puffed as they mounted a powerful attack, and they thought they scored when Takulua dived through a pile of bodies – but the TMO discovered Maitland's last-gasp tackle forced him to spill the ball.
And Saracens countered in style, darting from one end of the pitch to the other in just a couple of phases – but Chris Ashton knocked on just as he was about to dot down.
Newcastle survived on that occasion, but they could not stop Lozowski from scoring shortly before the break as he latched onto the end of an accurate Richard Wigglesworth kick.
The Falcons remained steady after the break, but Saracens extended their advantage shortly before the hour-mark as Ashton crossed after fine work from Rhodes and Jim Hamilton.
Dominic Waldouck responded for Newcastle as he skipped past one tackle to dot down, but any hopes of a Falcons comeback were short lived as Lozowski intercepted a lose Joel Hodgson pass to confirm the bonus point.
And Nathan Earle grabbed a fifth in the final 10 minutes as he broke through a tackle out wide and powered over.
Newcastle were not done though, as Vereniki Goneva and David Wilson score late on to set up a tense finish – but Sarries held on.
For Newcastle Falcons:
Tries: Waldouck, Goneva, Wilson
Cons: Takulua, Delany 2
Pens: Takulua 2
Tries: Rhodes, Lozowski 2, Ashton, Earle
Cons: Lozowski 2
Pens: Lozowski 2
Newcastle Falcons: 15 Alex Tait, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 Dominic Waldouck, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Joel Hodgson, 9 Sonatane Takulua, 8 Nili Latu 7 Will Welch (captain), 6 Mark Wilson, 5 Evan Olmstead, 4 Calum Green, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Rob Vickers,
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Ben Harris, 18 David Wilson, 19 Ally Hogg, 20 Callum Chick, 21 Sam Egerton, 22 Mike Delany, 23 Chris Harris.
Saracens: 15 Duncan Taylor, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Brad Barritt (captain), 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Alex Lozowski, 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Joel Conlon, 6 Jackson Wray, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Juan Figallo, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Jared Saunders, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Kelly Brown, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Max Malins, 23 Nathan Earle.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff, Andrew Pearce
TMO: Stuart Terheege