Wood grabs comeback score but Saints suffer pre-season defeat to Worcester

Saints were beaten 25-20 by Worcester Warriors in their one and only pre-season fixture at Franklin's Gardens on Friday afternoon.

Tom Wood scored on his return to action
Tom Wood scored on his return to action

The match was divided into four 30-minute quarters and there was no place-kicking.

Both teams gave game time to as many squad members as possible.

Here's a quarter-by-quarter round-up of the action...

Piers Francis

First quarter

It was to be a lively start at the Gardens as Alex Moon dropped the kick-off into onrushing Worcester hands, but Piers Francis won it back for his side with a jackhammer hit, drawing roars from the watching Saints players.

Worcester soon delivered a possession-winning hit of their own, with their bench lifting the decibel levels in response.

Alex Waller then announced his return with a big breakdown win, bringing acclaim from his fellow Saints players, as the game continued to be played at a frantic pace.

James Grayson

Saints started to turn the screw after winning a series of penalties in the Worcester half, but Henry Taylor's final pass didn't stick and the chance was lost.

Worcester cleared and after Francis had his kick charged down by Oli Morris, the race was on, but Francis won it, beating Morris to the ball before colliding with the left post and conceding a penalty.

The Warriors couldn't make anything of it but they were to score first after some fantastic work from Joe Batley, who delivered a powerful run to the line after picking off a poor pass from Taqele Naiyaravoro.

There were no conversions taking place so the Warriors had to make do with a 5-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Henry Taylor

Saints: Tuala; Naiyaravoro, Proctor, Francis, Collins; J Grayson, Taylor; Waller (c), Fish, Hill; Moon, Isiekwe; Wood, Tonks, Adendorff.

Worcester Warriors: Nanai; Heward, O Morris, Venter, Fidow; Searle, Hougaard; Waller, Annett, Schonert; Bresler (Batley), A Kitchener; Mama, Lewis, Dodd.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Second quarter

Nick Isiekwe

Owen Franks replaced Paul Hill in Saints' only change between the first and second quarter and the Kiwi prop was soon in the thick of the action.

After Grayson's inch-perfect crossfield kick found Naiyaravoro, Saints applied the pressure, eventually kicking a penalty to the corner and rumbling over through a sizeable shove from the pack.

It was Tom Collins who came up with the ball as the backs had got involved to help complete the job.

But Worcester hit back almost immediately as Melani Nanai found space on the right and slalomed his way through for a tidy score.

Waller's successful return ended as he came off to be replaced by Nick Auterac on 40 minutes and Saints soon scored their second try.

Taylor lifted the tempo with a quickly taken penalty, and Saints piled in to send Tom Wood over close to the posts.

But again Worcester responded in fine fashion as Saints failed to secure the ball at the breakdown and Nanai sprinted away before putting in a lovely kick ahead, allowing Gareth Simpson to touch the ball down.

There was plenty of huff and puff but Saints couldn't draw level before reaching the halfway stage of the match.

Saints: Tuala; Naiyaravoro, Proctor, Francis, Collins; Grayson, Taylor; Waller (c) (Auterac 40), Fish (Marshall 44), Franks; Moon, Isiekwe; Wood, Tonks, Adendorff.

Worcester Warriors: Nanai; Heward, O Morris, Venter (van Breda 52), Fidow (Hearle 42)); Searle (Shillcock 52), Hougaard (Simpson 42); Waller (Thomas 42), Annett (Cutting 52), Schonert (Palframan 42); Bresler (Merrick (50), A Kitchener; Mama, Lewis, Dodd (Monks 50).

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys

Third quarter

Saints, who changed the majority of their team at half-time, started the third quarter in flying fashion as a slick combination between Tommy Freeman and Josh Gillespie sent Fraser Dingwall in to level the scores.

But yet again, Worcester were back in front quickly as they engineered a move that saw Jono Kitto dive over in the right corner.

And finally the Warriors were able to give themselves some breathing space after they kicked a penalty to the corner and made it back-to-back scores after using their power game.

Saints were starting to find it tough to make any inroads and it was Worcester who were making all the running before eventually being stopped by some strong defending in the 22.

Saints: Freeman; Gillespie, Dingwall, E Grayson, Olowofela; Mathews, James; Auterac (Iyogun 78), Marshall, Painter; Ratuniyarawa, Coles; Hughes, Newman, Uru.

Worcester: Pennell; Spencer, Hearle, van Breda, Kitto; Shillcock, Simpson (Atkinson 80); Thomas, Cutting, Palframan (Morris 80); Merrick, Clegg; Cox, Williams (Forsythe 87), Monks.

Referee: George Selwood

Fourth quarter

Saints dragged themselves back into contention early in the final quarter as Api Ratuniyarawa and Connor Tupai combined to send the lively Tommy Freeman in for a score.

There was plenty of fight from the men (and boys) in black, green and gold during the closing stages of a really competitive battle.

Freeman and Ryan Olowofela looked particularly sprightly as they kept the Warriors on their toes.

Saints had one final chance to launch an attack in the Worcester 22, but the chance went astray and the whistle sounded to bring the curtain down on a very competitive encounter.

Saints: Freeman; Long-Martinez, Litchfield, E Grayson, Olowofela; Mathews, Tupai; Iyogun, Ma'asi, Garside; Ratuniyarawa, Coles; Hughes, Newman, Uru.

Worcester: Pennell; Smith, Hearle, Atkinson, van Breda, Shillcock, Kitto; Black, Miller, Morris; Scott, Clegg; Cox, Forsythe, Monks.

Referee: Neil Chivers