Worcester Warriors 30 Northampton Saints 15: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings
Saints have endured some agonising afternoons and evenings already this season - but this was arguably the toughest one yet.
Because while the margin of defeat was much bigger in losses to the likes of Saracens and Wasps, the context of this clash meant it surely hurt the most.Worcester had not won a single league game, losing all seven, scoring the fewest points of any side and conceding the second most.They were bottom of the league with just three points to their name.Yes, they had key man Francois Hougaard back for the first time against Saints.But Jim Mallinder's men were still expecting to win at Sixways.So what unfolded over the course of the 80 minutes was of great concern.Again, the defence was porous, with Worcester clinical in taking their chances.Again, the scrum suffered, with Worcester claiming a string of penalties in that area.And again, Saints were chasing their tails in the second half of a game.Aside from a strong start and a couple of tries that were ultimately rendered meaningless, there was absolutely nothing for Saints to shout about.Worcester belied their lowly league position to keep hold of the game and dictate proceedings.They kept Saints at arm's length during the first half, with the men in lime unable to put any concerted pressure on.And that is extremely troubling for a team with standards set far higher than losing to a struggling side and slipping to eighth in the standings.The win against a poor Dragons outfit aside, it has been misery on misery for Mallinder's men in recent times.They have now lost five of their past six matches, conceding a try bonus point in all of those defeats.Lessons have not been learned.And the pressure continues to pile on everyone at the club, with a tricky trip to Sale Sharks up next.Saints fans will be worried that the tide just doesn't seem to be turning for their team in key games.The trip to Sixways should have been a platform for the next two Premiership matches.Instead, Saints had the rug pulled out from under them and they could take few positives away.The final few moments of the match were shocking as Saints shipped the bonus-point try and Rob Horne was sent off for a second yellow card.It summed up how things have been going for Saints since the start of October.But while you could point to the strength of the opposition in the other defeats suffered since the win against Harlequins on September 30, there was no hiding place here.Questions continue to be posed, but answers are simply not being produced.And if Saints do not find some soon, the hard work they did in winning four league matches in September will be completely undone.How they rated...HARRY MALLINDERProduced the tidy offload for Foden's try and was the most threatening Saints back.. 5KEN PISIA really tough afternoon for the Samoan as Josh Adams gave him the runaround and he was withdrawn early in the second half... 3ROB HORNECould now be forced to miss out due to suspension as he was shown two yellow cards here - one for a high tackle and the other for a tip tackle late on.... 3LUTHER BURRELLThe centre was forced off early on and his absence was a big blow on an afternoon when his physicality could have been crucialTOM COLLINSTried to get in the game with his dancing feet, but Worcester managed to marshal him well... 4STEPHEN MYLERWith Worcester dominating up front, it was a difficult game for the fly-half, who didn't have much to work with... 4COBUS REINACHWas so impressive during the previous week's win against the Dragons, but he was starved of space here... 4ALEX WALLERFaced his brother for the first time but it was Ethan who bagged the bragging rights as Worcester gave Saints a tough time... 4MIKE HAYWOODAlways puts in plenty of effort, but the hooker couldn't help his team past a determined Worcester team... 4KIERAN BROOKESWas forced off with a finger injury after a physical first half at Sixways.... 4MICHAEL PATERSONA decent shift from the lock, but Saints were outgunned by the Warriors... 5SAM DICKINSONHas been filling in as a second row as Saints are short in that area and he made a few carries in an attempt to get Saints going... 4TOM WOODAlways pours in plenty of enthusiasm, but was left frustrated as Worcester earned the win... 5JAMIE GIBSONPut in plenty of hard yards, as ever, and his commitment to the cause couldn't be faulted... 5TEIMANA HARRISONCouldn't have his typical impact as Worcester limited the space and stopped him at source... 4Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)PIERS FRANCIS (for Burrell 15)Wasn't able to make the impact he would have hoped after returning from England duty as the Saints back line failed to really threaten... 4
JAMAL FORD-ROBINSON (for Brookes 40)Tried to add extra energy off the bench, but Worcester were on top when he came on and that was to continue... 4
BEN FODEN (for Pisi 52)Was able to give Saints something to shout about with a try just after coming on, but the game was drifting away by then... 6
CHRON STAR MAN - Bryce Heem (Worcester)