Worcester boss Dean Ryan was left a frustrated man despite seeing his side come back from 24-3 down to secure a bonus point against Harlequins at a rain-sodden Sixways.
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A lethargic Worcester had trailed by 21 points after 45 minutes with a Charlie Walker double and a Luke Wallace effort for Quins. Nick Evans converted all three and added a penalty.
Worcester’s second-half rally saw them score tries from Marco Mama and Phil Dowson and a penalty try which Ryan Mills converted.
Ryan said: “I’m really disappointed, I’m sick of being described as plucky losers as we have to change that tag and I’m fed up of being close. Our kicking was woeful in the first half, we were trying to thread the ball through the eye of a needle and the first 40 minutes just wasn’t good enough.
— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) January 3, 2016
“We haven’t got the experience of a Nick Evans or a Danny Care, who moved us around with some pinpoint kicking and Care’s kick to create their third try was outstanding.”
Worcester dominated possession and territory but their opponents were more clinical as the Warriors wasted opportunities and could not fully capitalise on the sin-binning of both Quins centres Jamie Roberts and George Lowe.
The Warriors’ first-half performance was probably their worst of the season and Quins did not have to do anything exceptional to lead 24-3 but they were transformed in the second period and in the end were unlucky losers.
— Harlequins (@QuinsRugbyUnion) January 3, 2016
Quins boss Conor O’Shea said: “For the first 45 or 50 minutes we were outstanding, we were disciplined and clinical and were still trying to play rugby in the difficult conditions. If we could play like that for the whole 80 minutes we would be some side.”
The major talking point of the game came in the 30th minute when Worcester’s fly-half Tom Heathcote was pole-axed by giant Quins lock Charlie Matthews.
After medical attention, Heathcore left the field and did not return. After consulting the TMO, referee Wayne Barnes ruled the challenge as fair, much to the disgust of the home fans and Ryan.
“He knocked the guy out and he’s still dazed,” fumed Ryan.
Alex Goode insists Saracens will continue to ignore their “boring” tag as they step up their Premiership title defence.
Wasps director of rugby Dai Young used the word to describe the champions’ style after Sunday’s 26-16 defeat at the Ricoh Arena, declaring: “You have to give them credit, but it’s a boring way to play.”
Saracens are known for their suffocating defence and kick-chase game, yet only Exeter have scored more tries in the Premiership this season and the London side are the form team in Europe.
Resurgent Leicester visit Allianz Park on Saturday in a fascinating clash between title rivals and Mark McCall’s men will persevere with tactics that have enabled them to amass 14 successive victories dating back to last season.
Dai Young to @bbc5live on Saracens gameplan: “It is boring, make no bones about it… but it’s very effective and very difficult to beat.”
— Chris Jones (@chjones9) December 27, 2015
“We have always had an attitude of worrying what’s inside the bubble,” England full-back Goode said. “From all accounts, what’s said about us has gone a full circle, going from being a bit negative to getting behind us and then going back to being negative again.
“It is a bit disappointing when a coach says that but it does not bother us as a group. We are not worried about what people say. We are top of the tryscoring stats, so it makes no difference to us.”
Leicester have won only one of the previous seven meetings between the English heavyweights – a 31-27 triumph in the 2013-14 season – and outside centre Mathew Tait admits a conservative gameplan serves Saracens well.
“Saracens are very good at what they do. It is a huge challenge for us down there but as a group we are excited about taking it on,” Tait said. Bath are hoping to post back-to-back victories for the first time this season when they travel to Newcastle with a win against relegation-threatened Worcester in the bank from last weekend.
“It’s just about making the next step now. We talk about the ‘next play’ a lot, no matter what’s gone before,” said openside Guy Mercer.
In other fixtures, London Irish will be seeking their second victory of the season when they travel to Gloucester while Sale host Wasps.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder revealed he is set to meet England boss Eddie Jones next week after watching his side beat Exeter.
Mallinder accused the RFU of making an unofficial approach for his assistant coach Alex King and insisted after the 8-3 win over the Chiefs that he still knew no more about Jones’ intentions after the Australian met with King.
Jones, who has been in Australia for Christmas, has identified King as his potential attack coach after adding scrum coach Ian Peel to his backroom staff following the appointments of Steve Borthwick and Paul Gustard.
Mallinder said the club had still not had any contact from the RFU and added: “Eddie is coming back next week and coming into the club to see me for a chat, so hopefully I will know a bit more then.”
Jones is believed to be keen on naming Dylan Hartley as England captain, but Mallinder admitted the 29-year-old has a fight on his hands to win a starting place at Northampton after picking Mike Haywood ahead of him and then seeing the academy product score the only try of the game in an impressive performance.
Mallinder said: “Mike Haywood was a big call, to start him above Dylan – but again he showed what he can do. “Mikey, over the last few years, has played well for us. When we won the Premiership Mikey was a massive part of that and started when we won the final.”