The Aviva Premiership kicked off at Sixways stadium as Worcester Warriors welcomed Northampton Saints, and found themselves struggling against the newly promoted side.
The long overdue pre-season finally ended and the season began this evening, along with two other games across the country.
Worcester came into this premiership game after just one season in the Championship, beating Bristol 59-58 on aggregate.
Northampton Saints also ended their 2014/15 campaign with success, although narrowly missing out on the final, losing to Saracens at home.
Discipline would be a key factor in the contest, with both sides possessing the capabilities to punish minor errors.
An English trio of Luther Burrell, Dylan Hartley and Keiran Brookes all started for Northampton, hoping to put their know-how to good use.
Worcester came out of the blocks well, aggression clearly being implemented in the game plan by manager Dean Ryan. Physicality was in abundance in the opening minutes, with both sides wanting to flourish and neither defence looking to give in.
Stephen Myler opened the scoring, planting two penalties in quick succession, making the scoreline read 6-0 after just ten minutes. The Warriors responded well, fly-half Heathcote scoring the first points for the home side.
Number 8 van Velze crossed the white wash thirty minutes in, and with the conversion added, the Warriors went into the break leading, by just four points.
Saints were quick to get started, Myler providing good depth in attack, allowing his English counterpart Luther Burrell to cross the unforgiving gainline. Worcester kept their ground however, and gave little ground away.
Any half-time talk from coach Dean Ryan was fruitless, as the Warriors gave away a costly penalty, the scoreline now reading 10-9 with 36 minutes remaining.
Inexperience started to emerge throughout the promoted side. Kicks launched directly into touch, whilst knock-ons began to be a regular occurrence.
22 minutes into the second half, and Worcester found themselves in their first scoring opportunity of the half. Ryan Mills attempted a long range kick, narrowly missing off the post. Just 3 minutes later, and fly-half Tom Heathcote was also given 3 points on a plate, but once again the inexperience showed and he missed once again. Score was still 10-9
Both sides were slowly starting to struggle, the clinical nature of the first half slowly disappearing, along with the Saints’ hope of victory. Deep into the second half, and a string of neck rolls led to two penalites , the latter being kicked at goal. Tom Heathcote stepped up to the tee once again, and missing once more, a blatant kick infront of the posts drifting narrowly wide.
With just 10 minutes left, Saints had good possession in the Warrior’s 22, pick and go the name of the game at this stage. Good defense and discipline however from the West-Midlands side led to a superb clearance kick from Heathcote, and the pressure averted finally.
The game slowly coming to a close, the defence from Worcester grew ever stronger, the full-strength Saint’s side struggling at this late stage.
3 minutes remain, and Myler has a penalty kick within range. The England international slots it calmy under pressure and the Saints lead for the second time in the game, 10-12. A broken Worcester side remained focus despite the score line.
From the final kick off, Northampton retain the ball well, the 2014 semi-finalists showing their experience in simply running down the clock, all until a knock-on and switch of possession. A glimmer of hope streams through the night sky for the Warriors.
Warriors react superbly to the loose ball, and break away through the backs, culminating in a ruck, direct in front of the Saints’ posts. Arr slots the ball back to Heathcote, who collectively kicks to win the match.
An amazing opener to the season, and one that sets the bar undeniably high for the upcoming games.