Last-gasp agony as Saints slip to Worcester loss

Saints were stung by Worcester at Sixways last weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints were stung by Worcester at Sixways last weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Tom Heathcote claimed the ultimate redemption as his last-gasp drop goal secured a stunning 13-12 win for Worcester Warriors against Saints on Friday night.

The fly-half had missed all three of his second-half penalties, but he kept his nerve when it mattered most, bisecting the posts with the final kick of the game to send Sixways into ecstasy.

Saints looked set to steal the points on Aviva Premiership opening night thanks to a superb penalty from Stephen Myler one minute from time.

But Heathcote had the final word in the most dramatic of denouements.

Myler had put Saints in control early on with two penalties, but Worcester, playing their first game back in the Premiership after winning promotion last season, responded superbly.

Heathcote landed a penalty before Warriors’ South African No.8 GJ van Velze scored against his former club.

Saints simply couldn’t get going in the second period, struggling to get out of their own half and shipping penalties at regular intervals.

Heathcote had missed all of them, but he stepped up to secure the win, bringing a huge roar from the delighted home faithful.

Saints were huge favourites for the game at Sixways, having topped the regular-season table last time round.

They handed debuts to Kieran Brookes, Michael Paterson and Jamie Gibson, with two more of their new signings, Paul Hill and JJ Hanrahan, on the bench.

And Jim Mallinder’s men were to start well, using their power to smash Worcester back on to the edge of the home 22.

Referee Greg Garner eventually had to award a penalty and Myler landed it to give his team the lead.

The fly-half was soon landing another one from a similar position after Luther Burrell’s brilliant tackle on Tom Biggs forced another infringement from the Warriors.

But the home side issued a stirring response, knocking loudly on the Saints door before eventually earning a penalty, which was landed by Heathcote.

Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints NNL-151016-221904009

Worcester Warriors v Northampton Saints NNL-151016-221904009

The distinctive Biggs was causing plenty of problems down Saints’ left and the men in grey had to be sharp to stop his surge from inside his own half.

As was to be expected in a season-opener, it was all a bit scrappy, with both sides making handling errors.

Ken Pisi was guilty of a bad one in his own half and from the resulting scrum Worcester were able to turn up the heat.

A neat move from left to right saw van Velze cross, with Heathcote adding the extras to give his team a four-point led 10 minutes before the break.

Confidence was growing in the home camp, symbolised by Heathcote’s decision to turn down a kickable penalty in favour of going for the corner.

But Saints did well to hold out against a blue tide, ensuring the deficit would be four points at the break.

Mallinder’s men knew they had to improve in the second half, but they were stung by an early injury blow as Tom Stephenson was forced off.

They did win a penalty at the next scrum though, and Myler pulled his team back to just a point behind.

Heathcote missed the chance to restore his team’s cushion with fluffed penalty, but the Warriors continued to play the game in the Saints half.

The away side were desperate for some territory and were thankful that their scrum was functioning, earning a couple of crucial penalties at the set piece.

They needed some inspiration and turned to Samoan scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i, who came on for frustrated skipper Lee Dickson.

But Worcester were still making all the running and they were being given chances to add to their tally from the tee.

Heathcote, though, was failing to hold his nerve, firing two efforts wide after Ryan Mills had seen one hit the post.

These were huge reprieves for Saints, but they were struggling to make the most of them as they simply could not get out of their own half.

That was until they managed to win a penalty two minutes from time, with Myler, the man nicknamed the Ice Man, stepping up to land what looked like the winning points.

But after Saints once again coughed up the ball in their own half, Worcester handed the ball to Heathcote, who got enough on his drop goal to secure a memorable win for his men.

Line-ups

Worcester: Pennell; Vuna, Olivier, Mills, Biggs; Heathcote, Arr; Leleimalefaga, Annett, Schonert (Rees 60); O’Callaghan, Barry; Dowson, Mama (Cox 50), van Velze (c).

Replacements not used: George, Bower, O’Shea, Mulchrone, Grove, Humphreys.

Saints: Foden; K Pisi, Stephenson (G Pisi 41), Burrell, Elliott; Myler, Dickson (Fotuali’i 60); A Waller (E Waller 64), Hartley (Haywood 64), Brookes (Hill 68); Paterson, Day (Harrison 50); Gibson, Fisher, Dickinson.

Replacements not used: Nutley, Hanrahan.

Referee: Greg Garner