Worcester Warriors secured a priceless first win of the Guinness Premiership season as a trio of second half tries blasting them to a stunning victory over Bristol at Sixways Stadium.
Captain fantastic Pat Sanderson, Greg Rawlinson and Dale Rasmussen all crossed for scores as Warriors finally tasted top-flight victory.
The result was rich reward for Worcester after a string of recent positive performances and built of forward dominance they sent a packed home crowd into raptures.
Director of Rugby Mike Ruddock praised his battling troops and claimed the win could help them kick on for the second half of the season.
“We are pleased we got a win, this has been coming for a while, we have built some good momentum in Europe and against Bristol we showed what we are capable of,” he said.
“We are relieved to a certain degree but we feel we are too good a side to be where we are and this just needs to be the start for us.”
Skipper Sanderson returned to the starting line-up after being rested for the clash with Bucuresti and hooker Lutui was back in the front row.
Full back Thinus Delport made an important early mark after a high up and under from Bristol to settle any pre-match nerves from the home side.
Warriors’ forwards were pumped up and turned over early ball before Loki Crichton’s intelligent kick put Worcester into the visitors half, with Miles Benjamin racing after the ball to put pressure on the Bristol backline.
Bristol soon hit back as they looked to spread the ball wide but when they came in field they were guilty of holding on in contact and referee Spreadbury handed back possession to the home side.
Both teams were trading some monster hits in a tense opening spell as they looked to gain superiority and break the deadlock. Crichton again booted Worcester clear after more visiting pressure before Greg Rawlinson stole a lineout to huge cheers from the home support that had packed into the stadium.
But the home crowd were soon silenced as a simple chip and chase saw the Warriors all freeze and Tom Arscott duly took advantage as he collected the ball and dived over for the opening try of the game. Jason Strange saw his conversion drop wide but Bristol led 5-0.
From the restart the visitors let the ball drop and handed back possession to Warriors but after Matt Powell and Pat Sanderson had flicked it wide the move broke down when Crichton knocked forward.
A knock on from Delport then handed back more possession after Gear had opted to take a quick lineout before the South African then sliced a clearance to put Warriors under more heat.
Worcester were struggling to make any inroads as handling repeatedly let them down. The tension was clear to see as Worcester looked to make an impact as they went through the phases and Darren Morris burst down the left flank. Warriors kept the ball alive and went right with Delport latching onto Crichton’s floated pass and chipping over the top.
Bristol were hit for offside giving Crichton the chance to cut the lead which he duly took to final register Worcester’s first points of the afternoon.
The visitors made a complete mess of collecting Crichton’s clearance from the restart and Worcester turned the ball over again in the forwards. But when Luke Arscott was taken out off the ball the penalty went to Bristol but Strange’s effort lacked the power to reach the posts.
Warriors were not stringing possession together and kept the ball for long periods with Benjamin making a storming run through midfield to ghost past four men before keeping the ball alive. Bristol were pulled to all corners and again strayed offside, only for Crichton to push his penalty kick wide and let the visitors off.
Worcester again put Bristol under huge pressure before the half-time whistle but had nothing to show for their dominance as the visitors took a 5-3 lead to the break.
The home side came out firing for the second half and Benjamin again made a mini-break in the centre of the field before the ball was lost in contact just as Warriors looked set to burst over.
The game was held up for several minutes when hooker Mark Regan crashed to the ground and hobbled off to be replaced by Scott Linklater.
However, it did not stop the incessant Worcester pressure and a scrum penalty saw Crichton step up to deservedly edge Warriors ahead for the first time in the match.
Worcester again stepped on the gas from the restart and Crichton kicked to the corner to heap the pressure on Bristol as the noise levels grew inside Sixways.
The forwards took the ball on and referee Spreadbury sinbinned visiting skipper Matt Salter close to the line for stopping the momentum as Worcester looked to crash over. The penalty was given to Warriors but again Crichton saw his effort slide wide.
Worcester were camped in the Bristol 22 but could not unlock the defence to get the score that would push them clear. Crichton again kicked to the corner but the lineout was not straight and the chance again went begging.
The pressure was now relentless and to huge cheers a lineout catch saw the home side rumble forward with huge power and as they closed in Sanderson touched down to an eruption of noise. Crichton added the extras to put Worcester 13-5 ahead.
Bristol hit back with plenty of the ball but Warriors were clearing their lines to try and keep the visitors at bay. Fly half Crichton saw a clearing kick charged down by Andrew Blowers to put Worcester under pressure from nowhere but Delport was alive to the danger to hack clear.
Worcester again put the pressure on and almost went in wide right before the ball was recycled and Sam Tuitupou fed Greg Rawlinson received the ball to blast in under the posts. Crichton added the extras for a 20-5 lead with 17 minutes left.
Tuitupou produced a massive hit on Salter to win the ball back but it was now end to end stuff with Tom Arscott kicking over the top to win a penalty for the visitors as he was bundled into touch off the ball.
Bristol kicked to the corner but Warriors stole the lineout and Powell kicked clear to huge relief from the home support before Gillies stole more lineout ball.
Hooker Matt Mullan entered the battlefield for Aleki Lutui but there was no stopping Warriors as they again surged forward and Bristol infringed to give Crichton another kickable penalty but he sliced it wide right before a drop goal also drifted the wrong side of the uprights.
The home crowd were now sensing the first league win of the season and the third try of the game came when numbers out wide counted and Gear fed Rasmussen who span past the last man and touched down to massive celebrations.
Bristol hit back with Luke Arscott going close after collecting a chip only to be halted in his tracks by another thunderous hit from Tuitupou.
The seconds ticked away and at the final whistle a huge roar rumbled around Sixways as Warriors finally tasted that elusive first victory.
9m T Arscott t 0-5
21m Crichton p 3-5
43m Crichton p 6-5
54m Sanderson t Crichton c 13-5
63m Rawlinson t Crichton c 20-5
75m Rasmussen t 25-5
Warriors: 01 Darren Morris (Black 78), 02 Aleki Lutui (Mullan 68), 03 Tevita Taumoepeau, 04 Greg Rawlinson, 05 Craig Gillies (Bowley 72), 06 Drew Hickey (Talei 63), 07 Pat Sanderson (c), 08 Kai Horstmann, 09 Matt Powell (R Powell 72), 10 Loki Crichton, 11 Miles Benjamin, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 13 Dale Rasmussen (Pennell 77), 14 Rico Gear (Brown 77), 15 Thinus Delport
Replacements: 16 Callum Black, 17 Matt Mullan, 18 Will Bowley, 19 Netani Talei, 20 Ryan Powell 21 James Brown, 22 Chris Pennell