Falcons consign floundering Warriors to defeat
October 5, 2013
The Warriors found it hard going against Newcastle's physicality
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The Worcester Warriors are still without a win in the 2013-14 Aviva Premiership season after losing 16-11 to fellow relegation favourites Newcastle Falcons at Sixways on Saturday.
Former Scotland captain and scrum-half Mike Blair sent Newcastle on their way with an early try as Falcons claimed a first victory at Worcester since a Jonny Wilkinson-inspired triumph in 2004. Blair's half-back partner Rory Clegg added a conversion and two penalties, while Phil Godman kicked a late penalty to thwart a Worcester side that managed an Igancio Mieres penalty double and wing David Lemi's late touchdown.
Worcester are left propping up the table with just a couple of losing bonus points from five starts this term heading into a fortnight's break for European action. Crucially, the Warriors have now already lost at home this term to Newcastle and London Irish - two perceived rivals in the Premiership's lower region - which suggests a long road ahead for Dean Ryan's men.
The Falcons, though, added Worcester to Sale's scalp on the road this season after grinding out a victory that owed so much to high levels of character and resilience. Worcester started the game like a team devoid of confidence, although club chairman Cecil Duckworth's declaration in his programme notes that "this year we do not expect to be competitive against the top four or five teams" could hardly have helped.
Newcastle are nowhere near the Premiership play-off zone, yet they enjoyed early dominance as Clegg kicked a second-minute penalty before Worcester were undone by the Falcons' first notable attack. Former Saracens and Northampton wing Noah Cato announced his presence by breaking several early tackles, before Newcastle pounced following a powerful charge by lock Carlo Del Fava that was followed by Blair picking up and diving over.
Clegg converted and then booted a second penalty, leaving Worcester 13 points adrift and their supporters growing increasingly frustrated by repeated wasteful tactical kicking from half-backs Mieres and Paul Hodgson. The Warriors saw centre Ravai Fatiaki limp off midway through the half - he was replaced by Scotland international Alex Grove - but it heralded a concerted spell of Warriors pressure that resulted in a Mieres penalty.
Newcastle found themselves stretched defensively as Worcester looked to move through the phases and referee Martin Fox sin-binned Falcons prop Oliver Tomaszczyk for illegally slowing down Warriors' possession. Newcastle's 14 men, though, held out until the break, with a 13-3 advantage proving just reward for their early control following an opening 40 minutes littered with poor handling and wayward kicking.
Worcester knew they realistically had to make their temporary advantage count, yet they still lacked the verve or inclination to move possession wide, opting instead for a close-quarter pick and drive approach. But that was meat and drink to Newcastle's defence, as they comfortably absorbed a number of surges before Mieres kicked his second penalty as Tomaszczyk rejoined the action.
Most of the game was centred around the halfway line, with neither side possessing sufficient creativity to break the other down, and it appeared increasingly likely that a mistake would be required from Newcastle to allow Worcester back in. The Falcons remained well-organised in defence, but Worcester finally capitalised on a bountiful supply of possession when Samoa international Lemi pounced after 74 minutes.
Once again, Worcester initially chose a battering ram approach through their forwards, and Lemi had the presence of mind to dive in among them to get his hand on the ball behind Newcastle's line. Paul Warwick missed the touchline conversion attempt, but Newcastle were far from troubled and they stormed back upfield through the combined attacking skills of Mark Wilson and Chris York that set up a penalty chance which Godman accepted.
Worcester had enough time to mount one final siege deep inside Newcastle territory, but Newcastle's scrum was up to the task defensively and Warriors could find no further way through.
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