The likelihood of Gary Gold extending his stay as Worcester’s director of rugby increased with a passionate performance from his side that may have cost his former club a place in the Premiership semi-finals.
The South African, who was axed as Bath’s director of rugby in December 2013, was summoned by Worcester in January as a troubleshooter to turn around a season that looked likely to end in relegation – and he has almost completed that task. Gold will not discuss his future until Worcester are mathematically safe from relegation but that could be as early as tonight if Wasps beat Bristol at Ashton Gate.
“It would be unbelievably arrogant if I were to sit here and think we are safe when another team like Bristol, who have two home games out of three, can do anything,” Gold said.
“Under no circumstances am I going to sit here and say we are safe. Bristol are an unbelievable threat at home. You saw what they did to Bath there and they ran Exeter close at Sandy Park.
“I don’t want to talk about safety yet but we’ve had conversations here and, if we are able to get through this fight, I will definitely look to chat to the club to see what the future plans are for next year.”
Under Gold Worcester have improved their fitness and developed a resilience that enabled them to cope with the loss of first choice props Nick Schonert and Val Rapava Ruskin – both of whom Gold rates as candidates for England’s summer tour of New Zealand - with injuries during the week.
Gold also picked out lock Will Spencer as an England wildcard after he capped another outstanding performance in front of England coaches Neal Hatley, Steve Borthwick and Rory Teague by scoring the winning try against his former club.
“He’s come from a couple of years of injuries and not having played very much. It’s incredibly commendable how he has fought through some tough times,” Gold said
“When he arrived at the club he was intent on putting his hand up and showing how good he is and I really think he could be an answer for England going to Argentina in the summer.
“He’s played consistently well for us in six games, probably played the full 80 minutes in those matches. He runs the line outs, he calls the line outs, he’s very good with ball in hand. As a lock he doesn’t have a weakness.”
With Robert Howley, one of the British and Irish Lions assistant coaches, also in the crowd, Worcester centre Ben Te’o did his prospects of a trip to New Zealand no harm by setting up the first of Worcester’s three second half tries by slicing through a thicket of tacklers then feeding Jackson Willison who put wing Josh Adams over.
Bath showed only glimpses of the fluency that had dragged them back into play-off contention against Leicester last week and they failed to impose themselves on Worcester’s depleted front row.
Bath’s line out also came under pressure from Spencer, Donncha O’Callaghan and Samoan flanker Chris Vui whose tap-down helped to set up Wynand Olivier’s try.
Spencer then drove over from close range after Bath conceded a succession of penalties under pressure and it was left to George Ford to salvage a bonus point with a late penalty.
“We knew what was at stake and that makes it even more disappointing. But we are not going to give up hope yet, there is s till too much to play for and there’s a lot that can happen yet,” said Bath director of rugby Todd Blackadder.
Scoring 0-3 Ford pen; 3-3 Mills pen; 3-8 Banahan try; 3-10 Ford con; 6-10 Milles pen; 6-13 Ford pen; 11-13 Adams try; 16-13 Olivier try; 18-13 Mills con; 18-16 Ford pen; 23-16 Spencer try; 25-16 Mills con; 25-19 Ford pen;
Worcester C Pennell; P Humphreys, J Willison (W Olivier 55), B Te’o, J Adams; R Mills, F Hougaard; R Bower (R Grant , J Taufete’e (J Singleton 67), B Alo (G Milasinovich 46), D O’Callaghan (captain – A Faosiliva 67), W Spencer, C Vui, S Lewis, M Mama (D Potgeiter 72)
Bath A Watson (T Homer 67); S Rokoduguni, J Joseph, B Tapuai, M Banahan; G Ford, K Fotuali’i; N Catt (B Obano 62), R Batty (N Charles 50), K Palma-Newport (S Knight 62), C Ewels (Z Mercer 43), E Stooke, T Ellis, F Louw (captain – D Denton 72), T Faletau.
Referee: Mr L Pearce (Devon)