Springbok scores as Warriors edge Tigers
PREMIERSHIP REPORT: Tom Howe’s dramatic late try and an earlier score by Springbok Francois Hougaard saw Worcester down Leicester Tigers 17-13 and give their Premiership survival hopes a huge boost.
Howe crashed over in the corner with two minutes to go to hand his side Midlands bragging rights and turn the tables on a Leicester team that had led for much of the match.
Jonah Holmes’ first-half intercept had given the visitors the half-time ascendancy, but Francois Hougaard set up a grandstand finish shortly after the break.
Tom Hardwick’s penalty saw Leicester take the initiative once again, only for Howe to have the final say just before the end.
Leicester started the stronger of the two sides, dominating both possession and territory during the opening exchanges only to be thwarted by some resolute home defending – particularly at the breakdown.
Despite laying siege to the Worcester line, all the visitors had to show for their early toil was a solitary Matt Toomua penalty after Tigers wing Jordan Olowofela’s score in the corner was chalked off for a forward pass.
The near-miss finally sparked Worcester into life, and despite largely being second-best in the opening quarter, Duncan Weir levelled the scores with a precise penalty.
Rory Duncan’s side continued to push in search of further reward, but with the Leicester line seemingly at their mercy, opportunism from Holmes saw him intercept a pass and race 90 metres to score the first try of the game on 29 minutes.
Toomua’s conversion meant Tigers led 10-3 at the break, yet having kept within reach, Worcester capitalised to make the perfect start to the second period.
Francois Venter surged through a large gap in the visiting defence, with fellow South African Hougaard burrowing over three phases later to restore parity.
With vital points on the line, the two sides struggled to play the kind of expansive rugby needed to take the decisive initiative as the game became increasingly tense.
Substitute Hardwick kept his nerve from the tee after Worcester had been penalised for offside, but Howe pounced on Chris Pennell’s excellent pass to spark jubilant scenes at Sixways.
Victory sees Worcester move up to 10th in the table, and open up a nine-point gap on Newcastle Falcons at the bottom.
For Worcester Warriors:
Tries: Hougaard, Howe
Cons: Weir 2
For Leicester Tigers:
Pens: Toomua, Hardwick
Worcester Warriors: 15 Chris Pennell, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Ryan Mills (captain), 11 Tom Howe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Marco Mama, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Ted Hill, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Nick Schonert, 2 Jack Singleton, 1 Ethan Waller
Replacements: 16 Isaac Miller, 17 Callum Black, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 Pierce Phillips, 20 Matt Cox, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Ollie Lawrence
Leicester Tigers: 15 George Worth, 14 Jonah Holmes, 13 Gareth Owen, 12 Kyle Eastmond, 11 Jordan Olowofela, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Ben White, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Mike Williams, 6 Mike Fitzgerald, 5 Graham Kitchener, 4 Harry Wells, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Tom Youngs (captain), 1 Facundo Gigena
Replacements: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Campese Ma’afu, 18 Joe Heyes, 19 Will Spencer, 20 Guy Thompson, 21 Harry Simmons, 22 Tom Hardwick, 23 Sam Aspland-Robinson
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys
Assistant Referees: Adam Leal & Jonathan Healy
TMO: David Rose