Belfast Telegraph

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No relief for struggling Warriors

Northampton kept the pressure on Saracens at the top of the Aviva Premiership with victory at winless Worcester.

Lock Samu Manoa, wing Tom Collins and back row Tom Wood made Northampton's 33-10 win look more comfortable than it was in the final quarter, as fly-half Stephen Myler kicked four penalties and all three conversions.

The banana skin was under the Saints' feet for a long time as they failed to click against a Warriors outfit who caused them trouble but, eventually, could not end their now nine-game losing streak in the league which further increases the heat of relegation

Worcester fly-half Ignacio Mieres scored an opportunist try, which he converted himself, with full-back Chris Pennell kicking their other points with a penalty.

As much as Worcester bravely battled, Northampton went into half-time the more frustrated as they could have been well in command by then.

The Saints enjoyed much the better of possession and twice came close to grabbing a try to add to Myler's two early penalties.

The ever-threatening Collins was bundled into touch just short before the video referee ruled out a neat move that saw lock Christian Day pass to scrum-half Lee Dickson, who sent Ken Pisi in for a forward pass between the number nine and his winger.

With England ace Wood and Day commanding in the Saints' line-out, little invention in the Worcester attacks and a seemingly-nervous Mieres at stand-off, it seemed Saints coach Jim Mallinder would be encouraging his men to go on a try blitz and a bonus point in the second period.

But that talk probably became more intense when Worcester turned the tables in dramatic fashion moments before the interval.

Scrum-half Paul Hodgson produced a great moment as he charged down an attempted clearance from the Northampton 22 by Myler to see Mieres pick-up the loose ball and sprint under the posts for an unexpected touchdown that the fly-half also converted.

That fired up the Warriors after the break as Northampton struggled to impose themselves. Myler added another three points with a twenty metre penalty to put the Saints back in front a 9-6 but Worcester had found some passion and took the game to their high-flying opponents.

Pressure inside the Northampton 22 saw the Saints infringe and Pennell put over the penalty to restore the Warriors' one-point advantage.

Northampton were looking a little flustered but when they eventually decided to get stuck into the game and go up a gear, Worcester had no answer.

The breakthroughs came just after the hour with a 10-point rush. Collins almost got over the line in the corner, only denied by some fine defence from wing James Stephenson.

Yet, from the resultant attacking line-out and several phases, Manoa grounded the ball under a pile of bodies, with Myler adding the conversion.

Moments later, a further Worcester mistake gave the accurate Northampton stand-off the chance to land his fourth penalty, which he gratefully accepted - and suddenly this became the Saints side that everyone expected to turn up.

Collins finished off a lovely overlap move on the left, just able to keep his feet in touch, and evading the vain tackle attempt of wing Dean Hammond.

And, within minutes, Wood received the reward for his tireless effort all through the game by fending off the defence to rumble ten metres to the line.

It was a clinical finish by Northampton but their first-half performance and the lack of a fourth bonus point try will give Mallinder much to chew over at the next analysis session early in the week.

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