Wasps overcome Danny Cipriani injury blow to beat Worcester
Wasps reclaimed second place in the Aviva Premiership after they shrugged off a number of injuries to sink struggling Worcester 26-12 at Sixways.
Rob Miller, fly-half deputy for an injured Danny Cipriani, kicked 16 points, while centre Brendan Macken and scrum-half Dan Robson scored tries to keep Wasps tucked closely behind leaders Saracens going into a fortnight's European action.
Worcester, though, suffered a seventh defeat of the Premiership campaign, and remain in 11th spot as they build towards a crucial clash against bottom club Bristol at Ashton Gate on Boxing Day.
Four Jamie Shillcock penalties proved insufficient to threaten Wasps, with the visitors' superior game-management underpinning a comfortable victory, even if Worcester dominated second-half field position.
Wasps suffered a late injury blow when Cipriani withdrew due to a calf strain, so Miller took the number 10 shirt and full-back Piers O'Connor made his Premiership debut. In addition to their England internationals, Wasps were also without injured pair Jimmy Gopperth and Kyle Eastmond.
Worcester boss Carl Hogg, meanwhile, made several changes from the side routed by Exeter last weekend, including a first Premiership start for flanker Sam Lewis, who packed down in the back-row alongside skipper Dewald Potgieter and number eight Alafoti Faosiliva, with Faosiliva having returned from Test duty with Samoa.
A lengthy list of Wasps absentees also included wing Christian Wade, who scored a Premiership record-equalling six tries in last season's corresponding fixture, but the visitors needed less than a minute to open their account.
Shillcock's pass was intercepted on the halfway line by Macken, and he sprinted clear for a soft opener that Miller converted, before Shillcock and Miller exchanged penalties, making it 10-3 to Wasps after just six minutes.
Macken's touchdown after 51 seconds was the Premiership's quickest try this season, but Worcester were not fazed by such an early setback as another Shillcock penalty - awarded following a Wasps scrummaging infringement - kept the Warriors in touch.
Shillcock completed his penalty hat-trick as Worcester enjoyed a sustained spell of pressure, while Wasps also required some last-ditch tackling to keep out Warriors wing Cooper Vuna when he spearheaded a thrilling counter-attack.
Two further Miller penalties restored a seven-point advantage for Wasps, but Shillcock also continued to punish any indiscretion, and a long-range penalty cut the deficit before Miller cancelled it out to give the visitors a 19-12 half-time lead.
Wasps began the second period with another quick-fire score, this time for Robson, who skipped his way through a weak Worcester defence inside Warriors' 22 for a try that Miller converted, putting daylight between the teams for the first time.
Worcester, though, continued to enjoy their share of territory, and they looked to free Vuna, comfortably their most potent attacking weapon, at every opportunity before switching possession wide following another of his trademark bursts, but referee Craig Maxwell-Keys rightly ruled out the try for a forward pass.
It served as a reminder to Wasps that Worcester were still in the hunt, and even with a 14-point advantage, they knew the game was not safe entering the closing 15 minutes.
But Worcester did not help themselves, lacking accuracy in attack and often looking like a team short on confidence as they snatched at opportunities when Wasps found their defence creaking.
The visitors, in contrast, had no such problems, and even though it was far from a vintage performance, it proved a case of job done.