Saints breathe sigh of relief after escaping with win at Sixways
There was no last-gasp heartache for Saints at Sixways on Friday night as Jamie Shillcock missed a penalty with the final kick of the match to hand the points to Jim Mallinder's men.
In a dramatic denouement, Bryce Heem scored with a minute remaining and Shillcock added the conversion to bring Worcester back to a point behind.
And with Calum Clark sin-binned for throwing a player to the ground after the try, referee Greg Macdonald restarted the game with a penalty with the clock dead.
But Shillcock’s effort from the halfway line was wide, handing Saints a nail-biting 18-17 win.
They had suffered late agony at Sixways on the opening night of last season, when Tom Heathcote landed a nerveless drop goal.
But they held on by the skin of their teeth on this occasion, with six Stephen Myler penalties providing the victory.
Saints had fought back after going in 10-9 down at half-time, but they had to ride their luck late on to record their fourth victory in eight Aviva Premiership matches this season.
Shillcock had shown early signs of his kicking ability as the 19-year-old fly-half steadied the nerves with a penalty from close to halfway.
But after good work from Jamie Gibson won a penalty, Saints pushed on to win another closer to goal, with Myler easily levelling the scores.
But Worcester came charging back at Saints and after Wynand Olivier managed to break the line, the centre offloaded to Dean Hammond, who scored.
Shillcock converted and there was injury added to insult for Saints as skipper Sam Dickinson hobbled off before play was restarted.
Saints had the chance to cut the gap to four points, but Myler missed a penalty chance he’d expect to make, sending the kick to the right of the posts.
Any attacking threat from the away side was being snuffed out by Worcester, who were having it easy as Saints struggled to keep hold of the ball, with their handling below-par.
But when they did manage to go through the phases, they earned a penalty, which Myler landed with ease.
Saints were growing into the game, carrying hard at the Worcester defence, and the home side’s discipline was being called into question.
Another penalty provided three points for Myler, reducing the deficit to a single point before half-time.
Worcester’s lack of control really started to bite after the break as centre Ryan Mills was sin-binned, and Myler soon put Saints ahead for the first time, at 12-10.
It wasn’t long before Myler added another three points to his tally, with the Warriors again ending up on the wrong side of referee Macdonald.
When the Warriors did get a penalty from the man in the middle, at a scrum, they used it to put pressure on Saints, with Tom Kessell having to be alert to halt Hammond.
Kessell and Ben Nutley, who had been early replacements for Lee Dickson and Dickinson respectively, had been two of Saints’ better players, driving the team on.
But Worcester were able to fight back when Mills returned to the field and they thought they had scored, only for Val Rapava Ruskin deemed to be short of the line by the TMO.
And Saints stemmed the tide, pushing Worcester back and playing the game in the oppositon half again.
Myler looked to have sealed the win with a well-struck penalty after replacement tighthead Gareth Denman had impressed in the scrum, earning plenty of pats on the back.
But Worcester kept scrapping and after Heem scored in the corner, Clark was sin-binned for throwing the player to the floor.
Shillcock kicked the conversion and Macdonald took the decision to restart the game with a penalty, meaning the Worcester fly-half had a chance to win it.
But his kick from the halfway line went wide, with Saints and Clark, in particular, breathing a sigh of relief as they picked up the win.
Worcester Warriors: Pennell; Hammond (Adams 75), Olivier, Mills, Vuna (Heem 55); Shillcock, Arr; Rapava Ruskin (Leleimalefaga 72), Annett (Singleton 59), Schonert (Daniels 72); O’Callaghan (Kitchener 53), Barry; Potgieter, Kirwan, Dowson (c).
Saints: Foden; Elliott, Burrell, Hutchinson, Wilson (Collins 64); Myler, Dickson (Kessell 22); A Waller (E Waller 64), Haywood (Clare 77), Brookes (Denman 65); Paterson (Craig 64), Day; Gibson, Clark, Dickinson (c) (Nutley 11).
Referee: Greg Macdonald