A Worcester Warriors side peppered with Premiership performers proved too strong for Leicester Tigers’ young guns in the first hit-out of the new season in the Premiership Rugby Cup on Saturday.
The Worcester side wrapped up the bonus-point before the break, with tries from Perry Humphreys, Isaac Miller, Caleb Montgomery and Alex Hearle putting the home side in control despite three Tom Hardwick penalties and a score for Andy Forsyth.
Three more Warriors scores in the second half put the game to bed, though there would be a late consolation when Johnny McPhillips crossed for his first try in Tigers colours on the stroke of full time.
Six of the Tigers starting XV marked their senior debuts at Sixways, with Tigers Academy graduates Sam Costelow, Jack van Poortvliet, George Martin and Charlie Clare plus new arrival Joe Thomas and loan signing Ifereimi Boladau all getting a first run-out in Tigers colours.
Former Tigers lock Graham Kitchener lined up against his previous club from the off, with a start in a Warriors side formed of largely first-choice players.
Worcester fly-half Jono Lance hoisted the ball deep into the Tigers half to start proceedings, with Geordan Murphy’s men absorbing the early pressure and winning a kickable penalty on the first trip into the home half, which Tom Hardwick duly claimed.
Lance hit back with a penalty of his own with six minutes gone to take the scores to three-apiece, but Worcester mis-cued Costelow’s testing restart and Tigers won the ball back just metres from the line through a Tommy Reffell steal.
While Sam Aspland-Robinson was unable to claim Hardwick’s cheeky chip-kick for the game’s first try, referee Christophe Ridley brought the teams back for a Worcester offence on the floor. Inside centre Hardwick added three more points.
The home response was immediate, with Worcester getting the ball out quickly from a scrum to put winger Perry Humphreys through a gap down the middle of the pitch for a score under the posts, which Lance converted.
But the visitors wouldn’t have any of it, stealing the ball after the lineout to see Tommy Reffell burst through. The Welshman fed loanee Andy Forsyth to run in for Leicester’s first score. Hardwick drilled the ball through the uprights to nudge Tigers into a three-point lead, at 13 points to 10.
With a quarter of the game gone – and after a brief water stoppage in the hot September sun – Worcester had a throw-in on halfway to get back into the game, which Kitchener claimed. The Warriors put the ball through the hands and, despite some crunching tackles in the Tigers backfield, hooker Isaac Miller crashed over for a converted score on the left.
Tigers No8 Boladau took the game by the scruff of the neck on the restart with a heavy-duty carry through the guts of the Worcester defence, though Tigers were unable to recycle the ball quick enough to get the ball over the line.
They had the momentum, though, and just a few phases later hooker Clare put skipper Harry Wells through a gap in exactly the same area of the pitch. While the second-rower managed to offload to Van Poortvliet, the Worcester defence scrambled back in the nick of time.
Instead, the home side worked the ball from one wing back to the other following a lineout to put back-rower Caleb Montgomery over for another home score. Lance’s conversion took the score to 24-13.
There was time for one more lung-busting break down the field for Tigers, with the final pass out to Joe Thomas on the left seemingly knocked forward by a Worcester hand.
Warriors reset a few phases later, and while Tigers’ young guns bravely disrupted the ball, replacement back Alex Hearle finished off a side-to-side attack to claim the bonus-point try on the stroke of half time. Another Lance kick took the score to 31-13 at the break.
Leicester pinned the home side back into their own half from the off in the second period, and settled for another three from Hardwick’s boot for the first points of the half.
Worcester hit back through their backs – releasing Beck for a second try in the corner – and while Tigers worked the ball up to the try line following the restart, the final lineout went awry.
Some good work on the floor from Tigers slowed the game down for the next 10 minutes or so, though the men in fluoro-red were unable to capitalise.
Instead, it would be the home side who finished off the next score, with replacement prop Farai Mudariki bundling over from the lineout. The conversion from full-back Scott van Breda took the score to 43-16, before replacements Johnny McPhillips and Keston Lines both joined the field for their senior club debuts.
Heavy defensive work from the Tigers pack kept Worcester out for the next quarter, and the home side would break their half-century in unusual fashion as Ridley signaled for a penalty try as the ball bobbled dead.
They added another with two minutes to go, when replacement fly-half Jamie Shillcock burst through some tired Tigers legs for their final score.
There would be a late consolation for Tigers, when No22 McPhillips cut through for a first senior try in club colours. Hardwick’s full-time conversion took the final score to 57-23.