Wing wonder Miles Benjamin scored a stunning brace of tries as Worcester Warriors were narrowly beaten 23-20 by title-chasing Bath in a Sixways thriller.
The two sides served up a cracking game of running rugby with Benjamin (2) and Drahm crossing for the home side in front of a partisan crowd on Tackled Pink day in the Guinness Premiership.
Tom Cheeseman grabbed a treble for the visitors as they snatched a late lead and although the Warriors produced a thrilling finale there was no sensational ending as they had to settle for a losing bonus point on a day when top-flight survival was assured.
“It was a fantastic game but our skills weren’t as good as theirs over 80 minutes and we missed a few kicks at goal,” said Director of Rugby Mike Ruddock.
“This kind of form bodes well for the future but we lost today and that hurts because we felt we should have won it.”
Both teams started the game at a high velocity as they looked for the early advantage in a pulsating atmosphere at Sixways Stadium. Full back Thinus Delport looked to make a break but was pulled back for a forward pass.
Bath were stringing together some impressive passing movements in the opening minutes with Delport forced to scurry back to stop Andrew Higgins chipping through. Bath were turning the screw and Lee Mears looked to barge over only for Sam Tuitupou and Marcel Garvey to stop him grounding the ball.
Worcester put a shunt on the five metre scrum but Bath still made the breakthrough when full back Joe Maddock broke through men and offloaded to centre Tom Cheesman to cruise over. Olly Barkley made a complete mess of his conversion attempt but Bath led 5-0 after less than ten minutes.
Worcester were struggling to get their hands on the ball in the opening exchanges but when did they made yards with Miles Benjamin making a break and Drew Hickey also going quick after Butch James came in at the side.
Visiting prop Matt Stevens was penalised at the scrum and Shane Drahm opened the Warriors account with a booming penalty.
Bath roared back with more attacking rugby and went both ways before Maddock made a dart and was hauled down short of the line. Pat Sanderson was taken off and replaced by Tom Wood for a blood replacement at the midway but it did not stop Warriors who produced a length of the field stunner
Marcel Garvey made the initial break and fed Rico Gear who burst past one before intelligently flicking out to Benjamin who pressed the gas to scorch over. Fly half Drahm was just left with the conversion.
Powell looked to push home the advantage minutes later but his kick over the top ran dead after a cruel bounce forward. Bath were back on the front foot but lost the lineout deep in Worcester territory but hit back and flicked it wide for Cheesman to score his second of the afternoon to edge ahead 10-8.
The end-to-end nature of the game continued with Worcester claiming the kick-off and Bath being penalised by referee Andrew Small for not rolling away. Drahm had the chance to regain the lead after opting to go for the posts but his effort fell short.
Bath returned the ball with real power with Barkley making a break and hacking forward and when Garvey failed to collect it was left to Delport to pick up and boot to touch. The visitors were really applying huge pressure and after Warriors were penalised at the breakdown Barkley slotted a penalty to extend the lead.
Bath continued to dominate possession and territory and lost and battered and bruised skipper Sanderson just before the break. Maddock again looked to break from deep and after a dubious looking forward pass the visitors were eventually pulled back for a stray pass.
Tuitupou looked to end the first half on the front foot but after collecting a chip from Drahm knocked forward. Bath, however, were penalised in the scrum and Drahm was just wide with a penalty from the halfway line.
Matt Mullan replaced Tony Windo at the break but it was Bath who had the first chance to strike when Worcester were caught offside. Barkley stepped up and drilled the ball from inside his own half between the posts.
Worcester responded in stunning style as they went wide at pace and Benjamin handed off two men and bulldozed over the third for another breathtaking score. Drahm was wide with the kick but the lead was cut to 16-13
From the restart wing Banahan chipped over the top and when Garvey back-chatted the referee the opposition kicked for the corner. Worcester they regrouped and pushed Bath backwards before they were guilty of going over the top at the breakdown.
Both teams continued to slug it out in an absorbing encounter despite the wet weather that started to lash down on the stadium turf. A short clearance by Drahm was picked up by Banahan but he again knocked on in contact with the line closing in. Bath tried a cross field kick to Banahan minutes later but he again lost the ball forward under a challenge from Garvey.
With 20 minutes to go the game was still up for grabs and the match changed with a bizarre moment. Drahm chipped ahead and Michael Stephenson and Chris Goodman got in each others way with Drahm scooping up the loose ball and running in unopposed. Drahm added the extras for a 20-16 lead to a huge ovation.
Worcester were suddenly playing with real flair and verve and Powell pinned back Bath with a stunning grubber to the corner as the visitors looked rattled by the tidal wave of gold and blue pressure.
Bath hit back with another stunner try as they broke at pace down the right and Cheeseman completed his hat-trick as he powered down the right wing to regain the lead for the visitors. Barkley added the conversion for a 23-20 lead.
Jonny Arr and Will Bowley entered the battle with ten minutes left and Benjamin made another surging break from deep before the forwards took the ball on only for Tuitupou to knock on in midfield.
Tension continued to grow inside the stadium as the final few minutes clocked down with Benjamin almost racing onto Powell’s clever kick over the top into space before it ran dead.
A thrilling finale saw Tuitupou break away and feed Gear who looked to run in before being held down. A penalty saw Warriors kick for the corner and with a minute left they looked to crash over for a late winner. The forwards took the ball on and the backs powered for the line but there was to be no fairytale end as Bath held firm to secure a narrow win.
09m Cheeseman t 0-5
14m Drahm p 3-5
18m Benjamin t 8-5
24m Cheeseman t 8-10
31m Barkley p 8-13
44m Barkley p 8-16
46m Benjamin t 13-16
62m Drahm t Drahm c 20-16
68m Cheeseman t Barkley c 20-23
Warriors: 01 Tony Windo (Mullan 40), 02 Aleki Lutui, 03 Tevita Taumoepeau, 04 Greg Rawlinson, 05 Craig Gillies (Bowley 70), 06 Drew Hickey, 07 Pat Sanderson (c) (Wood 17-28, 35), 08 Kai Horstmann, 09 Matt Powell (Arr 70), 10 Shane Drahm, 11 Miles Benjamin, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 13 Rico Gear, 14 Marcel Garvey, 15 Thinus Delport (Pennell 76)
Replacements: 16 Matt Mullan, 17 Shaun Ruwers, 18 Will Bowley, 19 Tom Wood, 20 Jonny Arr, 21 Joe Carlisle, 22 Chris Pennell