WHILE this is a time to celebrate Worcester Warriors’ triumph, this is also a time to reflect on what has been a season of progress for the club.
The Observer’s Warriors reporter Geoff Berkeley picks out some of the highlights of the campaign and also looks ahead to how Warriors might fare in the Aviva Premiership.
The battles with Bristol…
From the late drama at Ashton Gate in September to the final kick at Sixways last Wednesday, the clashes between the two have been something quite special.
The pair were tipped to go toe-to-toe for promotion this season, but no one would have foreseen how closely matched they would be as just one point separated them after 160 minutes of rugby.
Fortunately for Warriors, they finished on the right side of a 117-point thriller.
Tries, tries and more tries….
Whether it has been a forward drive or a piece of individual brilliance, Warriors have found some way of crossing the whitewash.
Their driving maul has been a particular destructive, with Sam Betty benefiting the most as he powered over 18 times – making him the club’s top scorer.
But it has been the solo scores which have lit up Sixways, with Tom Biggs’ mesmerising run through Nottingham’s defence in September and Mike Daniel’s 60-metre sprint against Doncaster Knights in January the pick of the bunch.
From Welford Road to Clifton Lane….
The differences in financial clout between top flight and second tier sides have been clear to see when Warriors have made trips to the likes of Mennaye Field, Lady Bay and Clifton Lane.
But instead of looking unsettled in unfamiliar surroundings, they have risen to the challenge and torn Cornish Pirates, Nottingham and Rotherham Titans apart in front of their opponents’ fans.
The rise of the Cavaliers….
Worcester Cavaliers used to be the whipping boys of the Aviva A League.
In the 2012/13 season, their best result was a 30-13 defeat to Newcastle Falcons.
It has been totally different story this time around as Dean Ryan’s decision to give youngsters the chance to express themselves in the competition came to the fore.
Their expansive style of rugby saw them see off the likes of Leicester, Northampton and Gloucester before falling short to Saracens in the final.
The Stelling and Symons combo….
They may not have featured in the final, but Max Stelling and Andy Symons have become key figures for Warriors.
The midfield duo have caused sides a heap of problems, with Stelling proving to be a dangerous runner and Symons making a strong case to be the club’s first choice kick. They will certainly be a difficult partnership to break next season.
Signings will be the order of the summer…
Once the celebrations die down following their dramatic victory over Bristol, the realisation of the challenge ahead of them will no doubt kick in.
As Warriors found in the 2013/14 campaign and London Welsh discovered this season, the Aviva Premiership can be punishing.
Worcester maybe a different side to the last one which featured in the top flight, but they will need to add more experience to steer them to safety.
Their forward pack, especially, needs bolstering as they bid to hold their own against some of the league’s big hitters.