By James Barker, Last Word on Rugby
The 23-23 Worcester Gloucester draw at Sixways has thrown up a number of talking points in Aviva Premiership round two. The Warriors will be highly disappointed that victory wasn’t secured against their closest rivals after scoring three tries. Gloucester will be frustrated that they couldn’t capitalise fully against 14 men. However the visitors were lucky to avoid defeat after they demonstrated simple handling errors, impotent attack and poor decision-making. What positives arise from this game, where both sides will feel hard done by refereeing decisions?
Worcester will be happy to end a run of five defeats in the Premiership. They will also be happy that England prospect Ben Te’o put in a solid display and scored a try on his home debut. This score was a good example of how the Warriors were able to score tries from half-opportunities, in contrast to their opponents. Many may have them as favourites for relegation after the departure of Dean Ryan. It will be encouraging that they put in a good attacking performance without Francois Hougaard and Chris Pennell.
The game’s turning point came with the red card for Alafoti Faosiliva. Mariano Galarza was forced from the field with a head injury in this incident after the Samoan led into a tackle with his forearm. The decision to give a red split opinion but ultimately it was correct to highlight something that affected player safety. Given that Ross Moriarty was earlier forced from the field with a head injury in an accidental incident, further incidents that can be discouraged should be.
From Gloucester’s perspective it is commendable that the Cherry and Whites had the mental strength to come back from 20-9 to earn a draw following their capitulation against Leicester in Round One. On the other hand after a strong start in the first 15 minutes they did not turn possession into points. The Cherry and Whites ended up chasing the game after that. Questionable refereeing decisions did not help though.
Worcester benefitted from a marginal TMO call with their second try through Cooper Vuna that arguably came from a forward pass. There have already been controversial calls this season e.g. Gloucester’s first try against Leicester. This follows new regulations for the Premiership that attacking sides will get any benefit of the doubt on marginal calls. That is fine, when applied consistently. World Rugby states a forward pass “occurs if the arms of the player passing the ball move towards the opposing team’s dead ball line”. Unfortunately, examples from this season seem to show this law can and is being interpreted with some subjectivity. Perhaps this is just a consequence of referees adapting to new instructions. As Richard Cockerill has said, “As long as you are consistent that’s fine”. Supporters and coaches are understandably frustrated at seeing possible infringements overlooked.
Worcester and Gloucester now face tough away trips, travelling to Bath and Sale Sharks respectively. Both will probably not want to dwell on this unsatisfactory result for too long. Instead they have to take any positives forward to gain some more early season points.