Head Coach Richard Hill insisted his Warriors had taken a ‘big step forward’ as they pushed French giants Perpignan all the way before losing out 13-6 at Stade Aime Giral on Saturday evening.
An early try from Richard Haughton proved vital as the home side took the win that leaves the clubs locked together on 15 points in the chase for group honours and quarter-final qualification in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Both clubs will have rematches with Bizkaia Gernika RT and Femi-CZ VEA Rovigo in the New Year and it could all come down to who performs best – and picks up bonus points – in those games as to who goes through to the prestigious last eight as pool winners.
Hill admitted the result was not the one he wanted, but he was still delighted with the manner with which Warriors pushed Perpignan – who have been irresistible at home all season – all the way to claim a losing bonus point.
“The players worked hard and were very close,” he said. “The crucial factor for me is that was a big step forward for this group, you could see we exuded confidence and really thought we were going to win that.
“That is where I see the side developing. We are angry and frustrated that we lost the game and that partly is down to ourselves, but we performed really well with a huge amount of heart and effort.
“The team were so confident we could win, even when we put the changes on. They added to it too.
“There will be teams like Toulouse and Montpellier that will lose here, good teams, and Perpignan do not lose games here very often.
“To come here and put in that kind of performance was encouraging, overall I personally think we should have won that.”
The key moment of the European clash came in the first ten minutes as Haughton scored against the run of play and left Warriors always playing catch-up.
Hill added: “We probably lost it in the first quarter of an hour where gave them soft points and squandered two clear cut scoring chances.
“Unfortunately that meant we were chasing it, but we showed huge character and spirit. We are just bitterly disappointed that a bonus point might not be enough to get us into the quarter finals.
“We missed touch with kicks, after they hit the post with a penalty, and then Andy Goode and Semisi Taulava went for the same ball, it was an error and it came out of nothing,
“They didn’t deserve it and we were not in any trouble at all. We were clearly the better side in the first 20 minutes; we were putting them under pressure.
“We should have gone 3-0 up but a bit of indiscipline saw a penalty reversed. We shouldn’t have given away the try after a series of errors and it knocked the stuffing out of us for a while.
“To be fair to the squad, we recovered and came back and played some good rugby. I think we were very close to beating this team on their own ground.”
“The crucial factor for me is that was a big step forward for this group, you could see we exuded confidence and really thought we were going to win that…"