John Brain couldn’t hide his frustration after seeing Gavin Quinnell score two late tries to snatch Warriors a crucial losing bonus point from an uncompromising battle against European Challenge Cup favourites Clermont-Auvergne.
The Worcester director of rugby admitted his side didn’t deserve to win the Pool 5 clash at Parc des Sports and reflected that the refereeing of the breakdown was pivotal in denying them the chance to carve anything more from the 29-23 defeat.
“It was an issue, in particular with not getting the player to roll away,” he said. “There were a lot of knock-ons and hands in the breakdown. That meant there wasn’t a lot of flow to the play, but that point could be significant in the context of the group.”
The second-half sin-binning of Chris Fortey was a turning point. Warriors were eight points in arrears at 17-9 when the replacement hooker was yellow-carded on 56 minutes for stamping at a ruck, five minutes after replacing Ben Gotting.
While he and captain Kai Horstmann were off the pitch – the latter to make way for a returning Gotting at hooker – Clermont stretched their lead to 24-9 with a converted try.
“I didn’t get a full view of the incident. But, if the breakdown isn’t reffed properly, and people are allowed to lie there, you often get stamping and a sin-bin. I don’t condone stamping, but it did have an impact on the match.”
Brain had words of praise, however, for the men who came on in the second half and lit the touch-paper for the explosion of 14 points in the last two minutes of the match.
“Our bench added value,” he said. “Gavin Quinnell, in particular, made a big impact on the game, not just by scoring two tries but carrying the ball. Shane Drahm, Lee Fortey and Mark Tucker gave us an edge too.
“We were in with a shout of winning when Chris Fortey was sin-binned. But we kept going to the end and deserved what we got.”