26 Aug 16
Warriors ended their pre-season campaign with a 52-21 defeat at the hands of Guinness PRO12 giants Munster Rugby.
But the accurate boot of visiting ten Adam Greendale and missed opportunities proved vital as Leeds claimed a narrow win in icy cold conditions to dent any title hopes that Warriors had harboured in the Northern Conference.
Warriors kicked off in bitter conditions and were caught cold as Leeds scored from the from the first attack of the game after less than a minute. A kick ahead by Jon Goodridge deceived Marcel Garvey with a cruel bounce and the visiting full back collected before diving over in the corner. Adam Greendale was short with his conversion attempt.
Worcester looked to respond with a clean lineout feeding Shane Drahm who chipped ahead for Lee Best but the danger was mopped up by Leeds who cleared to touch.
Leeds extended the lead on eight minutes when Greendale drilled a penalty after home skipper Tim Collier was adjudged to have come in the side at breakdown.
Worcester were guilty of sloppy errors in the opening minutes as they failed to assert any pressure on Leeds as they handed back possession with knock ons and turnover ball.
Finally the home side got their hands on the ball with Collier and Gavin Quinnell stealing back ball at the breakdown and from a neat kick over the top from Drahm, Aisea Havili was just beaten to the loose ball by Apo Satala.
Centre Andy Tuilagi made a powerful break in midfield but failed to find Leeds hands with his offload as the game reached the midway point of the first half with Leeds still in the ascendancy.
Worcester enjoyed their best passage of play of the night when centre Alex Grove reacted first to scoop up a Drahm kick ahead. A penalty to the home side saw Nick Runciman go quickly to feed Havili and another penalty saw Drahm kick to corner as pressure mounted. A lineout catch and drive saw taken by Collier but as the pack rumbled towards the line the try was chalked off for a double movement. Then, only minutes later, a carbon copy catch and drive saw Worcester power forward but a knock on again saw the chance go begging.
Leeds mounted a rare attack with ten minutes of the half remaining but quick thinking from wing Havili kept the ball alive as it rolled towards touch before Best's big boot cleared any danger from the visitors. Tuilagi made another big break in midfield after a lineout from Leeds but the cover defence reacted in time to snuff out any chance.
Leeds applied some more heat before a knock on was gobbled up by Jake Abbott who released Havea to make a big break through the middle. But the advantage soon swang back to the visitors when Greendale slotted a penalty after Worcester infringed with hands in the ruck.
From the restart Warriors finally found some rhythm and a quick tap and go found Abbott who made a yard and then fed Havili out left who slid over to open the account for Worcester. Drahm added the difficult conversion to cut the lead to 11-7.
The try sparked the home side into life as a huge hit from Garvey created a break and then Abbott again reacted quick to charge down a Goodridge clearance as Leeds poured back to try and holt the sudden wave of Worcester pressure.
Leeds were now struggling to stop the hosts from playing and a deserved Drahm penalty cut the lead to a single point at the interval.
Jonny Arr replaced Runciman at the break but it was Leeds who made the brighter start and when Graham Kitchener was sinbinned the resulting penalty was comfortably slotted by Greendale.
Leeds looked fired up and slick hands, combined with some miss tackles, allowed Martin Schusterman to run in under the posts. Greendale added the extras as the visitors took control with a 21-10 lead.
The home side were a man short but twice should have scored in a matter of minutes. First neat play created numbers wide right, but Drahm's final looped pass left little time for Havili to feed Collier and the big lock knocked on with the try line only yards away.
Then just two minutes later the home side again worked a move to put Leeds on the back foot with Garvey pressing the gas to make yards and then Havea taking it on. The move was shifted left to Havili who looked to have used his strength to go over only to knock on as he lurched over the whitewash.
The chances wasted proved costly as Tuilagi fed big wing Satala who in turn released Goodridge out wide. The full back chipped ahead and got lucky to collect the ball and speed over. Greendale added the difficult extras for a 28-10 lead.
Worcester again came agonisingly close with Havili held up as the hosts hunted away back into the clash with Drahm kicking to touch twice in successive minutes to set up attacking platforms.
Finally the breakthrough came when slick hands from Arr, Greg Evans and Tom Wheatcroft released Havili who made no mistake to cross for his second of the game to try and set up an entertaining finale.
A break from Collier set up a thrilling attack with Evans and Grove linking up well before Phil Nilson was sent to the sinbin for deliberately slowing the play down with hands in the ruck. A forward surge set up Drahm to peel off left and run in. The fly half then dusted himself off to slot the extras to cut the lead to six points.
But the comeback proved a false dawn as Greendale slotted a late penalty and Satala crossed for a late bonus point try.
1m Goodridge t 0-5
7m Greendale p 0-8
34m Greendale p 0-11
36m Havili t Drahm c 7-11
40m Drahm p 10-11
43m Greendale p 10-14
45m Schusterman t Greendale c 10-21
52m Goodridge t Greendale c 10-28
65m Havili t 15-28
71m Drahm t Drahm c 22-28
77m Greendale p 22-31
79m Satala t 22-36
Warriors: 01 Callum Black (Gilding 74), 02 Jordan Page, 03 Shaun Ruwers, 04 Tim Collier (c), 05 Graham Kitchener, 06 Gavin Quinnell (Cox 53), 07 Jake Abbott, 08 Paula Havea (Molatika 60), 09 Nick Runciman (Arr 40), 10 Shane Drahm, 11 Aisea Havili, 12 Mark Tucker (Wheatcroft 60), 13 Alex Grove, 14 Marcel Garvey, 15 Lee Best (Evans 49)
Replacements: 16 Scott Wright, 17 Jack Gilding, 18 Hollita Molatika, 19 Matt Cox, 20 Jonny Arr, 21 Greg Evans, 22 Tom Wheatcroft