Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Worcester heading for relegation

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Worcester's Aviva Premiership relegation was all-but confirmed as Saracens eased to a 44-20 victory at Allianz Park.

Jackson Wray claimed a hat-trick, Chris Ashton backed up his Heineken Cup semi-final brace against Clermont with two more tries, and David Strettle crossed to complete a routine win.

Chris Pennell's brace and a score for Semisi Taulava came to nought for the Warriors, who will now end the season bottom of the Premiership.

The Sixways side now face a second Championship season in five years, provided the second-tier promotion contenders pass the Premiership's entry criteria.

Bristol, Leeds and London Welsh will breeze through any scrutiny, while Rotherham are now likely to meet the minimum standards too.

Rotherham have agreed a ground-sharing deal in principle to play their rugby at Oakwell next term, and Barnsley's football stadium would pass Premiership regulations.

The RFU's Professional Game Board (PGB) will meet on Thursday in a bid to rule on Friday over the four promotion battlers' off-field set-ups.

The PGB aims to have the promotion-relegation issue resolved ahead of the Championship play-off semi-final first legs, to be played on May 10 and 11.

Worcester were relegated for the first time in 22 years in 2010, and now face the ignominy once more.

Director of rugby Dean Ryan will suffer precious little blame for Worcester's impending demotion.

Ryan assumed control from Richard Hill in April 2013, with this term's recruitment all-but complete at that stage.

Worcester decision-makers Cecil Duckworth and Dave Allen have never shied away from apportioning the majority of blame on the previous coaching team.

The Warriors have already rounded up 15 signings for next term, with all those recruits agreeing the Sixways move with eyes open on relegation.

Saracens slotted straight into try-scoring form, Strettle coasting home on the left wing after Mako Vunipola's defence-busting rumble from a tapped free-kick.

Alex Goode landed the conversion with England fly-half Owen Farrell still not resuming goal-kicking duties after foot trouble.

Billy Vunipola's crude late shoulder barge on Jonny Arr gifted Worcester three points from Lamb's boot.

Mako Vunipola then walked off with a suspected leg injury, Saracens expected to have removed him as a precaution with the Heineken Cup final and Premiership play-offs ahead.

Ashton eased immediately into the right corner, thanks to Billy Vunipola's number-eight break and Goode creating the extra man in the line.

Goode failed with the touchline conversion but landed a penalty on the quarter-hour after Brad Barritt's thunderous midfield tackle.

David Lemi's chip forced Ashton to carry over his goal-line and dot down, handing Worcester a five-metre scrum.

Five scrums and three penalties later, Rhys Gill was handed a yellow card, for continually buckling under pressure from Scotland tighthead Euan Murray.

With Mako Vunipola already injured, tighthead James Johnston came into the fray, with Matt Stevens swapping to Saracens' problem loosehead spot.

The sixth attempt at the five-metre scrum was re-set - and on the seventh effort Saracens won a penalty, to clear their lines.

Worcester finally struck when Saracens conceded a cheap breakdown penalty after failing to clear.

Impressive full-back Pennell cut a smart short line off Lamb, to sneak home, with Lamb converting to cut Saracens' lead to just five points.

Saracens struck back immediately once again though, making light of their 14 men with flanker Wray scything home after perceptive work from Marcelo Bosch.

Goode's conversion put Saracens 22-10 to the good at half-time.

Gill returned after the break, and Saracens quickly dismantled Worcester's scrum, to hand full-back Goode his second penalty goal of the afternoon.

Saracens grabbed their bonus-point score on 51 minutes when Ashton shimmied in for his second try of the day, though Goode was unable to convert.

Wray added his second just past the hour, and centre Bosch thought he had added try number six, only for Lamb to be sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and the score chalked off given Hargreaves' fumble.

Saracens scored straight from the scrum though, Wray driving home for his hat-trick, with Goode converting to push the hosts into a 44-10 lead.

Injury to Will Fraser reduced Saracens to 14, the home side having emptied their bench, and late yellow cards to Strettle and Neil de Kock saw them finish with just 12 men on the field.

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