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Preview: Duo aim to banish domestic blues

Wednesday 4th December 2013

12:00 am (GMT)

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Worcester Warriors return to Amlin Challenge Cup action having finally tasted victory for the first time this term but they already face an uphill battle to earn a quarter-final spot. - 04/12/2013 09:14

Worcester Warriors return to Amlin Challenge Cup action having finally tasted victory for the first time this term but they already face an uphill battle to earn a quarter-final spot. - 04/12/2013 09:14

Worcester Warriors return to Amlin Challenge Cup action having finally tasted victory for the first time this term but they already face an uphill battle to earn a quarter-final spot.

The Warriors lost their first five games of the season before drawing their European opener at Oyonnax and then suffering a comprehensive home defeat to Sale Sharks in Round 2. They are still yet to avoid defeat in the league in nine games but they did at least secure an LV= Cup success at Cardiff Blues last month.

That win in Wales suggested better things may lie ahead after a nightmare start to the season but three more defeats have followed and nothing but back-to-back wins over Biarritz Olympique would keep any realistic hopes of Amlin Challenge Cup quarter-final qualification alive.

Worcester currently sit third in Pool 1 with two points from two games, with Sale out in front on nine and Biarritz in second with five following a bonus-point win over Oyonnax last time out.

Biarritz are still bottom of the French Top 14 after an equally frustrating start to the season but they had seemed to have found form having picked up successive wins over Racing Metro and Brive.

Veteran back rower Immanol Harinordoquy was convinced his side had turned a corner ahead of their trip to Sixways, with the man who led them to Amlin Challenge Cup glory the season before last stating that Biarritz had shown they can “play for each other and with each other. And we proved to ourselves that, with that state of mind, we can expect other wins.” But defeat to Bordeaux-Begles home turf was a huge setback to their hopes of avoiding relegation from the Top 14 and they will cross the Channel low on confidence once again.

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Biarritz beat Worcester at the death

Thursday 5th December 2013

12:00 am (GMT)

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Indigent en Top14

Indigent en Top14

Biarritz Olympique kept their hopes of a repeat of their 2012 Amlin Challenge Cup success very much alive with a last-gasp win over Worcester Warriors on Friday night.

The former winners ensured a stunning start to an action-packed weekend of European rugby when Tanguy Molcard crossed with the final play of the game to give them a 19-15 victory at Sixways.

It looked like being a disappointing return to continental competition for the Basques giants but impressive openside Molcard powered through to break Worcester hearts and ensure Biarritz move to within a point of pool leaders Sale Sharks at the halfway mark of the campaign.

Worcester’s woes continue as a result, with the Warriors now having lost two and drawn one of their opening three Amlin fixtures ahead of next week’s daunting return trip to France.

The Warriors had lost all seven previous fixtures in league and cup at Sixways this season but finally looked set to break their duck thanks to tries from Dean Hammond and Alex Grove and a conversion and penalty from Chris Pennell before Molcard’s late intervention.

Dean Ryan and co are still waiting for their first win in 12 Amlin Challenge Cup and Aviva Premiership games this term and this defeat will have been particularly painful given that they twice looked set for a morale-boosting win that would have seen them jump into second spot in the standings.

Worcester led 12-0 with just over half an hour gone after Hammond crossed on 26 minutes and Grove followed suit five minutes later but Pennell could only convert one score having also missed an earlier penalty.

Both Worcester tries were well worked backline efforts, with left wing Hammond cutting into midfield following quick lineout ball before bumping off Aled Brew on his way to a fine score. Groves’ five-pointer was a little more straightforward but again involved good, quick handling in midfield with Josh Matevesi’s pass seeing the Scotland centre stretch for the line out wide.

Pennell missed the easier of the conversion attempts after Hammond dotted down but slotted the difficult extras following the second score and Worcester looked well on their way to what could have been a comfortable victory.

But a converted try from Taku Ngwenya cut the gap to 12-7 four minutes before the break when Worcester prop Ofa Fainga'anuku had been yellow carded for needlessly pulling back Mathias Marie. Scrum-half Luix Roussarie made the most of the extra space by sniping down the blindside of a close-range scrum before handing the American wing the simplest of run-ins.

Julien Peyrelongue added the conversion to make it a five-point ball game at the interval and it was his side who scored first in the second half some 22 minutes after the restart. Replacement No9 Yann Lesgourgues crossed under the posts after picking up a loose ball just inside the Worcester half and Peyrelongue’s simple conversion had the visitors in front for the first time at 14-12.

A Pennell penalty with less than eight minutes remaining looked to have won it for Worcester but, even though Biarritz had a try ruled out for a forward pass, there was still time for Molcard to change the mood in the West Midlands.

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