Burns kicks for salvation in gritty 'game of no halves' at Worcester
Worcester Warriors 16 Gloucester Rugby 16
TIMES were when a draw at Sixways would have had Gloucester feeling Worcester dragged them into a dogfight.
On Saturday both sides did more than their fair share of dragging down.
This clash almost became a contest to determine which side could lower the level the furthest.
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Highlights package creators will not be working overtime on this one: as Nigel Davies remarked, 'it was a game of no halves'.
Most at Kingsholm believe Gloucester boast their most talented squad in a generation.
But like beauty, talent is only skin deep.
Without substance behind the aesthetic, the Cherry and Whites will not fulfil their vast potential.
Three games into the new league season and the Davies tenure, it is impossible to rate this Gloucester side.
Until the league settles down there is no par result or performance:
Gloucester's victory at London Irish has been rightly lauded, but then the Exiles have been hammered either side of that clash.
Sale have been banging on about establishing themselves as a top-four force this term, and yet they too remain winless after round three.
Worcester are yet to fire, and yet to register their first victory of the new term.
So it would be easy to criticise this draw and suggest Gloucester threw away two points on Saturday.
But despite Worcester's continuing quest for a first victory, the Warriors overall were the more deserving of reward from this clash.
Richard Hill's men have long since been criticised for a lack of invention, but it was the home side who carved out the majority of the opportunities.
Gloucester's first-up backline defence was once again all over the place, and there's no doubt midfield alignment will be the main topic of Kingsholm conversation today.
Only try-saving tackles from James Simpson-Daniel and Jonny May kept them in this match in a lacklustre first half.
Neither side found fluency, but two bust-out breaks from Worcester very nearly brought try reward.
Once Gloucester finally built a phase platform they created a gilt-edged chance.
Andy Goode was rightly sin-binned for impeding Henry Trinder as the Gloucester centre chased his own grubber kick in the Worcester 22.
A catch and drive later, Gloucester worked a blindside advantage, cut left and ought to have scored.
But inexplicably Simpson-Daniel managed to let an admittedly-poor pass slip through his grasp.
The arch finisher will probably still be chastising himself for the error – but a man of his quality and talents can be excused the odd blip, especially after that fine try-saving scramble tackle. Gloucester led 6-3 at the break when they really should have turned around with a try under their belts – and that is probably the reason they did not win this match.
Worcester ended Goode's sin-bin period 3-0 to the good, Joe Carlisle levelling the match in his fly-half's absence.
With the game meandering into the final quarter, out of nothing Gloucester fashioned a fine score.
Billy Twelvetrees and Jonny May fashioned a half yard for Shane Monahan, and the Irish wing blasted down the right flank.
Careering into the Worcester 22, Monahan found the onrushing Trinder with a neat inside pass, and the wily centre did the rest.
The converted try should have been enough to see Gloucester home.
Instead Worcester responded in kind, with a remarkably similar score conjured from the ether.
Josh Drauniniu raced down the right flank and set up a ruck deep in Gloucester territory after losing his footing.
Goode and Carlisle worked a neat runaround fake in midfield, opening space for Sam Betty.
And after a series of tight drives James Currie bundled home.
A try that stemmed from Gloucester bungling an attacking lineout in the Worcester 22: yet more evidence, if any were needed, that all this team needs to do is cut out the cheap errors and they will win more than they lose.
So Worcester were level, and neither side seemed able to fathom how or why.
The confusion cranked up the tension then, but the home side, buoyed now by an expectant crowd, pressed for victory.
And with a minute on the clock former Leicester fly-half Goode thought he had delivered.
The tubby playmaker slotted a cool penalty to hand Worcester a three-point lead.
Sixways erupted in delight, and all watching on thought the Warriors had broken their duck for the new campaign.
Gloucester's scrummage fiends had other ideas though.
The Cherry and Whites pack obliterated the Warriors at the coal face, and with no time left on the countdown clock too.
Referee JP Doyle awarded the rightful penalty, with Worcester creaking under the scrum pressure.
And calm and collected replacement Freddie Burns stepped up and slotted the penalty to draw the match.
Burns knocked the goal over as though it were midweek training, not the crucial last kick of a gritty Premiership battle.
Victory conceded but defeat avoided: this was a strange clash all ways round.
Davies' Gloucester are yet to show their true colours, but thus far at least they have never lacked for resilience.
An important quality that will doubtless earn them points and plaudits many times this term, but it is high time to add accuracy to the mix.
WORCESTER: C Pennell, N Walker (J Drauniniu, 60), A Grove (J Matavesi, 72), J Carlisle, D Lemi, A Goode, S Perry (J Arr, 60), M Mullan (C Jones, 66), A Lutui (O Hayes, 72), J Andress (J Currie, 66), J Percival, D Schofield (capt) (C Gillies, 59), C Jones, S Betty, M Kvesic (S Taulava, 56).
GLOUCESTER: J May, S Monahan (R Cook, 74), H Trinder, M Tindall (F Burns, 54), J Simpson-Daniel, B Twelvetrees, D Robson (D Lewis, 60), N Wood (D Murphy, 60), H Edmonds (D Dawidiuk, 60), R Harden (S Knight, ), W James (S Kalamafoni, 66), J Hamilton (capt), T Savage, A Hazell (A Qera, 54), B Morgan.
REFEREE: JP Doyle.