ON THE same pitch where Ryan Lamb etched his name into Worcester Warriors’ history books, his new rival for the number ten shirt announced himself to the Sixways faithful.
While Lamb – the man who landed a last-gasp conversion to send Worcester into the Aviva Premiership – watched from the stands, new signing Tom Heathcote produced a majestic display on Saturday.
The Barbarians may have won the match, with his opposite number, Mike Harris, dispatching the match-winning penalty after Dom Shippereley completed his hat-trick.
But it was Heathcote who stood out among a number of experienced internationals as he converted Warriors’ five tries and thrilled his new boss, Dean Ryan.
“I thought Heathcote was outstanding,” Ryan said. “His goal-kicking was spot on and he looked really sharp.
“Tom came here to provide competition for Ryan (Lamb) and I am sure Ryan will respond to that.
“Fly half is not an area we have had strength in depth in, so we are really pleased someone like Tom has come along.”
Heathcote, who joined Warriors from Edinburgh in the summer, was among six new recruits in the starting line-up and it was the debutants who starred in the early stages.
Short, who was making his first appearance in Worcester colour since leaving the club in 2012, came agonising close to scoring on his return, before the ball was moved wide and Phil Dowson began his Warriors’ career with a simple touchdown. Heathcote added the extras.
The try did come at the expense of Short who hobbled off with an ankle injury and a power-packed Baa-Baas soon got into the swing of the things.
A driving maul led to Benn Robinson crashing over, which Harris converted before the visitors pounced on a mistake from Warriors.
Ben Tupuai intercepted a loose pass from Ryan Mills before feeding Shipperely who burst down the right to score.
Harris duly dispatched the conversion and it did not take long before he had another chance at goal as Todd Clever powered over from close range.
With the conversion dispatched by Harris, the Baa-Baas found themselves 21-7 in front, but Warriors refused to roll over and hit back on the 34th minute.
Heathcote was the architect as he exploited a gap in the away side’s defence before finding Cooper Vuna in space to finish. The fly half converted it to close the gap to 21-14.
But in the final play of the first half, Barbarians landed what appeared to be a telling blow when Shipperely slipped past a number of Warriors players and dived over.
Harris added an extra two points to leave Worcester trailing 28-14, but they responded superbly after the break as Val Rapava Ruskin smashed his way over and Heathcote produced a fine touchline conversion.
The Baa-Baas kept coming, though, and they increased their lead thanks to two tries in a matter of minutes. Full back Dwayne Sweeney went over in the corner before Shipperley scored his third try of the afternoon.
The winger could have had more if Chris Pennell had not been on the field as he produced a series of last-ditch tackles to keep Warriors in touch.
Worcester then cut back the deficit when great work by Charlie Mulchrone released Ben Howard who sprinted home.
Heathcote maintained his accuracy from the tee as the hosts started to claw their way back again and their hopes of producing a thrilling fightback received a boost eight minutes from time.
Phil Dowson gained valuable metres before popping the ball up for Ravai Fatiaki to burst clear and dot down under the posts.
Heathcote’s fifth successive conversion got Warriors within five points of Barbarians and a chance of victory.
But with three minutes left, Ryan’s men conceded a penalty which Harris ruthlessly slammed home.