Warriors showed tremendous character to start the 2020/21 Gallagher Premiership season with a gutsy but nerve-jangling victory over tenacious Irish at Sixways.
A try that was created by excellent teamwork and expertly finished by Tom Howe clinched victory after Irish had threatened to head home with spoils after Nick Phipps crossed three minutes earlier.
The win should have been much more comfortable but Warriors were repeatedly confounded Irish’s outstanding defence, particularly in the first half.
But Warriors kept their nerve and clinched victory with resolute defence of their own when Irish came hard at them late on.
The win was Warriors’ third in a row in the Premiership – four if you count the conceded match against Sale Sharks in the final match of last season – and was deserved reward for a passionate performance.
The victory will have tasted particularly sweet for Callum Black, who made his 100th appearance when he came off the bench midway through the second half.
It was also a fitting way to honour the memory of President Cecil Duckworth CBE who passed away last weekend. A minute’s silence was observed before kick-off, Warriors players wore black armbands and took the field with shirts with the initials CD above the Warrior badge.
But was an afternoon of hard work after Warriors dominated the first half for long periods but were frustrated by some ferocious defensive work from Irish which meant they had only an early penalty from Billy Searle to show for their efforts.
Oli Morris, on his first Premiership start, stood out in attack for Warriors with Ethan Waller twice exploding into the line and opening up the Irish defence.
But Warriors’ patient approach work was frustrated by physical defending from Irish which forced handling errors with the line in sight.
Warriors enjoyed 73 per cent possession in the first half yet turned around on level terms as Paddy Jackson landed an equalising penalty and Searle was off target with a penalty that would have restored the lead late in the first half.
It meant that Warriors had it all to do in the second half and Searle supplied an early boost when he slotted a 44th minute penalty after a high tackle.
Morris almost conjured up a try with a superb break but, once again, the ball went forward in contact and it was Irish, very much against the run of play, who went ahead when Phipps rounded off a sustained and patient attack.
Jackson’s conversion from the touchline made it a four points lead but Warriors responded superbly with a patient attack of their own which gave Howe just enough to squeeze in at the North East corner.
Irish had an opportunity to regain the lead on 72 minutes but Jackson fell short with a penalty attempt that was long range but straight.
The drama was still not over. Warriors forced a penalty with only 90 second left on the clock and Searle opted to kick for the corner rather than goal.
But his kick missed touch which gave Irish a scrum from which they launched a final desperate attack which ended when kicked possession away and Nick David ran the ball into touch.
Warriors | 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tom Howe, 13 Oli Morris (Beck 52), 12 Francois Venter, 11 Nick David, 10 Billy Searle, 9 Francois Hougaard, 1 Ethan Waller (Black 63) , 2 Niall Annett (Cutting 56), 3 Nick Schonert (Palframan 63), 4 Anton Bresler (Kvesic 52), 5 Andrew Kitchener, 6 Joe Batley (Merrick 63), 7 Ted Hill (C), 8 Marco Mama.
Replacements | 16 Beck Cutting, 17 Callum Black, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 George Merrick, 20 Matt Kvesic, 21 Gareth Simpson, 22 Jamie Shillcock, 23 Ashley Beck.
6m | Searle pen 3-0
13m | Jackson pen 3-3
44m | Searle pen 6-3
62m | Phipps try 6-8
63m | Jackson con 6-10
65m | Howe try 11-10