Warriors put up brave resistance and secured a valuable try bonus before their five-match winning sequence was ended by a powerful Saracens side in the Premiership Rugby Cup at Allianz Park on Sunday.
Despite resting the entire side that started at Leicester last week, Warriors made Saracens work very hard for victory and it was only after injuries to three forwards – Zac Xiorouppa, Ryan Bower and Andrew Kitchener – that Saracens made their pressure count.
Warriors, who included lock Lewis Bean and centre James Williams, on loan from Birmingham Moseley, were forced into a late change when hooker Jordan Liney, who was due to make his debut on a loan deal from Hartpury, was taken ill overnight.
Members of the club’s medical staff had to drive to Bath to pick up flanker Alafoti Fa’osiliva to complete the bench but despite the disruption Warriors were courageous in defence in the first half and bold in attack and they had Saracens rattled on a number of occasions.
But two tries in as many minutes early in the second half finally broke Warriors’ resistance although a 70th minute try from Wynand Olivier, on his 50th Warriors appearance, clinched the bonus point.
The match was preceded by a minute’s silence to commemorate the centenary of the Armistice and it was a particularly emotional minute for Bean, a serving member of the Rifle Regiment who has done two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
Bean stood upright to attention throughout the minute’s silence and then composed himself to face the challenge of Saracens’ experienced second row pair of Dom Day and Will Skelton.
Saracens used Skelton and Schalk Burger as their main target runners but Warriors put in a superb shift in defence in the first half which denied the reigning Premiership champions a try in the first quarter.
Warriors’ resources were stretched further when flanker Xiorouppa hobbled off just six minutes into his first appearance in two years and loosehead prop Bower was helped off midway through the first half.
But Saracens’ pressure eventually told when they kicked a penalty to touch, won the lineout and drove Burger over for the try.
Warriors’ response was positive and impressive and ended with Scott van Breda following up a kick through to get the touchdown. The former Jersey player added the conversion from far out on the right.
Saracens hit back with a powerful scrum which shunted Warriors off their own ball on the 22 and were quick to capitalise with left wing Alex Lewington squeezing in at the corner.
Warriors again showed their character by responding with a sustained and patient attack. Matt Cox almost made it to the line before he was dragged down just short but Warriors stretched the home defence by switching play right then left which gave Matti Williams enough room to muscle his way over for an unconverted try.
There was a lengthy delay at the start of the second half while a stretcher was summoned to take Andrew Kitchener off the pitch.
When play resumed Saracens shunted Warriors backwards at a scrum and number eight Ben Earl had the simple task of dotting down which left Tom Whiteley with an easy conversion.
The bonus point try soon followed when right wing Ali Crossdale rounded off a sweeping attack and Skelton went over for the fifth try when he rounded off an attack he had started with another barnstorming run.
Warriors lifted the siege when they made the most of a rare attacking opportunity in the second half when Dean Hammond’s strength set up his fellow wing for an unconverted try.
Saracens used their forward strength to wear down Warriors and create space for Crossdale’s second try but they were then caught in possession when they tried to attack from their own line.
Warriors won the resulting scrum and crisp passing saw captain-for-the-day Wynand Olivier power over for the fourth try and the bonus point.
Warriors applied further pressure but the chance of a second bonus point went when an intended pass to Howe was intercepted by Saracens and there was a knock-on when Warriors again attacked from a lineout.
Warriors. 15 Nick David, 14 Dean Hammond, 13 Wynand Olivier (C), 12 James Williams, 11 Tom Howe, 10 Scott van Breda, 9 Luke Baldwin (Arr 41), 1 Ryan Bower (Waller 22), 2 Beck Cutting, 3 Simon Kerrod (Mudariki 41), 4 Lewis Bean, 5 Andrew Kitchener (Fa’osiliva 42), 6 Zac Xiorouppa (Scott 6), 7 Matti Williams, 8 Matt Cox.
Replacements. 16 Nick Rigby, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Farai Mudariki, 19 James Scott, 20 Alafoti Fa’osiliva, 21 Jonny Arr, 22 Alex Hearle, 23 Luke Scully.
23 m | Burger 5-0
26m | van Breda try 5-5
27m | van Breda con 5-7
34m | Lewington try 10-7
38m | Williams try 10-12
43m | Early try 15-12
44m | Whiteley con 17-12
45m | Crossdale try 22-12
53m | Skelton try 27-12
54m | Whiteley con 29-12
56m | Howe try 29-17
56m | Crossdale try 34-17
70m | Olivier try 34-22