Authors: Rio Sports
Wasps finished top of last season’s Aviva Premiership table and they lead the way again after the opening fortnight of the new campaign. It would be pushing it to describe this latest victory as flawless but in Marcus Watson, elder brother of England’s Anthony, they have another top‑quality finisher capable of transforming games in a flash.
Watson, an Olympic silver medallist in Rio last year, is looking to show that a stint on the world sevens circuit can be a springboard to subsequent XVs success and says he would love to end playing Test rugby alongside his brother. A hamstring injury to Christian Wade provided the 26-year-old with his first start and, if his spectacular 22nd-minute try is any guide, Wasps will continue to take some catching out wide whether or not Wade is around.
Watson’s electric chip and chase was comfortably the game’s most compelling moment and earned an approving post‑match text from his brother. How Worcester could have done with finishing of the same class, the home side ultimately unable to maintain their momentum having entered the final quarter with the scores tied at 10-10. They even had a penalty to take the lead with 15 minutes left, only for the replacement fly-half Sam Olver’s kick to hit a post and allow Wasps to capitalise on some defensive doziness to escape down the other end and score through Willie le Roux. A third try late on from Josh Bassett, courtesy of Danny Cipriani’s lovely cross‑kick, merely compounded the Warriors’ frustration.
It also leaves Worcester at the bottom of the fledgling table without a point after their opening two games, not an ideal scenario with Exeter, Gloucester and Saracens looming as their next three opponents. To make things worse their highly rated tighthead Nick Schonert, who missed England’s summer tour with a hand injury, sustained a suspected broken ankle in the opening seconds while the fly-half Tom Heathcote failed a head injury assessment and will be unavailable for the home game against the Chiefs on Friday night.
Heathcote’s latest setback leaves the Warriors worryingly thin at No10 with only the 20-year-old Jamie Shillcock and the newly arrived, inexperienced Olver fit and available. With Ben Te’o, a Lion in New Zealand and in forceful early season form, also departing early for the second successive week with an arm injury, Worcester’s director of rugby, Gary Gold, had every reason to look slightly downcast afterwards.
Although this was a better performance than his team’s 35-8 drubbing at Newcastle on the opening weekend, Gold remains realistic. “I don’t think our character is under question but we need to continue to work on our accuracy. We’ve just got to understand this is possibly the toughest competition in the world. You’re not going to get an easy game. At this stage no one’s panicking but we do need to be honest with ourselves. We have to improve and improve quickly.”
On this evidence all is not yet lost. The club have confirmed they are seeking fresh financial investment but out on the field there is no lack of heart, epitomised by their tireless captain, Donncha O’Callaghan. Even at the age of 38, the former Ireland lock retains the enthusiasm of a teenager, mixed in with the street wisdom of his long association with Paul O’Connell at Munster.
Up front the Warriors were also well served by Sam Lewis and GJ van Velze in the back row, not to mention the gigantic Biyi Alo after Schonert had gone down in obvious pain following the game’s first collision. At 130kg Alo, the former Saracens squad member, had ambitions to be an architect when he was younger before a professional career as a human bulldozer beckoned. He announced himself by knocking the ball from a startled Nathan Hughes’s grasp and when the Warriors needed someone to drive unstoppably for the line from close range just before half-time they had an obvious candidate.
It might have been Worcester’s second try in rapid succession had the referee Tom Foley not decided Lewis had obstructed Ashley Johnson fractionally before Perry Humphreys put Heathcote away for a seemingly good score. Gold and O’Callaghan both strongly disagreed with the call and felt the score should have been awarded.
Not for the first time, however, the Warriors’ storm blew itself out prematurely, leaving Wasps’ director of rugby, Dai Young, suitably relieved. “I always felt we had another gear, and I always thought we would just do enough to win that game but it was pretty cruel for Worcester not to get a bonus point,” he said.
Wasps’ next game is a home fixture with Harlequins and, with Wade likely to be out for another week at least, Watson can expect more first-team action. “He is quality,” Young said. “The way we want to play the game, we want to create space out wide. If you do that you need to have the ability to finish off, so wing is always going to be an important position for us.”
Worcester Adams; Humphreys, Willison, Te’o (Shillcock, 67), Heem; Heathcote (Olver, 43), Arr (Stringer, 65); Bower, Singleton (Taufete’e, 70), Schonert (Alo, 1), O’Callaghan (capt; Scotland-Williamson, 57), Phillips, Cox (Fa’osiliva, 62), Lewis, Van Velze.
Try Alo. Con Heathcote. Pen Olver.
Wasps Le Roux; Watson (Miller, 60-67), Lovobalavu, Gopperth, Bassett; Cipriani, Robson (Simpson, 67); McIntyre (Mullan, 57), Johnson (Cruse, 49), Cooper-Woolley (Doran-Jones, 67), Launchbury (capt), Myall (Symons, 54), Rieder, Thompson, Hughes (Willis, 67).
Tries Watson, Le Roux, Bassett. Cons Gopperth 3. Pen Gopperth.
Referee T Foley (RFU). Attendance 7,735.
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