A tense encounter at Sixways saw Bath Rugby edge their way to a 14-16 victory over Worcester Warriors.
The visitors were first to get some points on the board, fullback Tom Homer stepping up to secure three points after Worcester were penalised at the breakdown following Niko Matawalu’s quickly taken free-kick.
However, after referee JP Doyle reversed a penalty that had originally been awarded in Bath’s favour, the home side took control of the game. Quick lineout ball from the home side saw possession spread wide, eventually falling into the hands of Cooper Vuna, who scored in the corner. Tom Heathcote added the extras, giving Worcester a 7-3 lead after 13 minutes.
13 minutes later and they doubled their lead, Donncha O’Callaghan using his considerable size to power over from short range, again in the corner, and again Heathcote converted.
Homer narrowed the gap three minutes later, sending a penalty straight through the posts after Worcester had strayed offside. 14-6.
Bath were determined to gain a foothold in the game as the first forty minutes drew to an end. Twice the driving maul rumbled towards the Worcester try line, but the home defence stood firm. It forced debutant Adam Hastings to drop back into the pocket and attempt the drop goal, only for his kick to drift narrowly wide on the stroke of half-time.
Half-time score: Worcester Warriors 14 – Bath Rugby 6.
Three minutes after the teams returned to the pitch, Bath were a man down – Max Clark yellow carded for a clumsy challenge on Bryce Heem, but the 14 men didn’t allow Worcester to extend their lead.
With 30 minutes to play, Bath made their way across the try-line, although Doyle felt the need to check with the Television Match Official before awarding the score. Jonathan Evans, on at scrum-half, put up a box-kick that Semesa Rokoduguni and Chris Pennell contested. Rokoduguni came away in possession, and found Evans on his shoulder in support. He offloaded and sent the scrum-half – who had only been on the pitch a matter of moments – over for the all-important try. Homer found his range and secured the touchline conversion to take the visitors to within a point.
The visiting pack were gradually gaining the ascendancy at scrum-time, and another penalty meant Homer took Bath into the lead with ten minutes to go. 14-16.
A frantic finale was in store for the Sixways crowd, as first replacement Ryan Mills and then Heathcote missed a penalty apiece in the closing stages.
A Worcester kick missed touch, but a knock-on from Bath gave the home side a five-metre scrum as the clock went dead. Bath’s pack held strong at the set-piece, and the defence soaked up phase after phase of pressure. Mills twice attempted the drop goal and was twice charged down, before Bath finally pounced on the loose ball and sent it into touch to bring the end of the game, and victory for the visitors.
Final score: Worcester Warriors 14 – Bath Rugby 16.