IT WAS another night Worcester Warriors’ supporters will talk about for years to come – and Tom Heathcote will probably never forget.
Five months after Ryan Lamb sent Warriors into the Aviva Premiership with a last-gasp conversion, Heathcote produced his own moment of magic to light up Sixways.
Stephen Myler appeared to have spared Northampton Saints’ blushes when he dispatched a 78th minute penalty to put his side 12-10 ahead.
But with no time left on the clock, Heathcote collected Charlie Mulchrone’s pass and let fly with a floated drop goal attempt which crept over the crossbar.
“After the last game of last season with Lamby, I had to try and top that, didn’t I?” Heathcote said.
“When I hit it I wanted to make sure it had the legs, but as soon as I knew it was going over and I knew time was up, it was a massive relief and everyone was buzzing from it.”
The result may have sent shockwaves through the top flight, but it was as much as Warriors deserved as they defended heroically through-out.
Northampton struggled to breakdown Worcester’s stubborn defence, with GJ Van Velze, Phil Dowson, Tom Biggs and Wynand Olivier all putting in tremendous shifts.
Having finished top of the table last season, Saints were big favourites to begin the campaign with a win and they got off to a steady start.
Two penalties from Myler – after Worcester had been penalised at the breakdown – put the visitors into a 6-0 lead inside ten minutes.
But Warriors soon settled and got on the scoresheet as Heathcote split the posts after Biggs went close.
And there were plenty more reasons for Worcester’s fans to cheer in the opening stages as their side went on the attack, with Heathcote doing his best to unlock Northampton’s defence.
Even when mistakes gifted Saints the ball, Warriors held firm as Oliver stopped anyone in their tracks, while Van Velze and Dowson put their bodies on the line.
So it was perhaps no surprise when the hosts scored the opening try. With just over 30minutes gone, Heathcote carved out some space with neat footwork before offloading to Van Velze to score against his former club. Heathcote added the extras.
With a 10-6 lead, Warriors now had all the momentum and they almost added to their score just before the break as Cooper Vuna was brought down metres from the try-line.
The half-time interval came at a good time for Northampton who quickly closed the gap at the start of the second period with a penalty from Myler.
But Worcester remained resolute and had their chances to extend their advantage as Heathcote sent a penalty kick wide before Ryan Mills fired an audacious attempt from the tee against the inside of the left-hand post.
Although Saints were trailing by just a point, they did not look like they could find an answer to Warriors’ tough-tacking as Biggs forced a turnover with a crunching hit.
But once again Worcester’s kicking was letting them down as Heathcote twice sent efforts wide as the match entered its final ten minutes.
And Northampton appeared to have made them pay for it when the accurate boot of Myler edged his side in front with two minutes left.
The Sixways fans have grown used to their side throwing winning positions away over the years, but under Ryan’s leadership Warriors seem to be made of sterner stuff.
And with one last throw of the dice they stunned Saints. After securing a turnover, Worcester’s forwards worked the ball into middle before Mulchrone found Heathcote who held his nerve to slot it home.
Pennell 7, Vuna 7, Olivier 9, Mills 7, Biggs 8, Heathcote 8, Arr 7 (Mulchrone 78, 6), Leleimalefaga 8, Annett 8, Schonert 7 (Rees 61 6), O’Callaghan 8, Barry 7, Dowson 8, Mama 7 (Cox 50, 6), Van Velze 9
Replacements not used: George, Bower, O’Shea, Grove, Humphreys
STAR MAN: GJ Van Velze – the number eight put his body on the line all evening and was rewarded with a first half try against his former club.