Heinz leads charge as revamped Worcester blitz Irish for rare win
England international Willi Heinz scored a try on his Gallagher Premiership debut for Worcester as the Warriors beat London Irish 36-24 at Sixways. The former Gloucester No9 is among more than a dozen newcomers to Worcester’s squad this season and he wasted little time making an impact, claiming Worcester’s second try and then creating a bonus-point score for No8 Matt Kvesic as they recorded a first on-pitch league win since beating Irish in November last year.
All of the Warriors’ other league victories last term were coronavirus-related forfeits and head coach Jonathan Thomas could not have asked for a better opening weekend display where they were watched at Sixways by England coach Eddie Jones. Flanker Sam Lewis, full-back Melani Nanai and wing Perry Humphreys also crossed for Worcester, with Wales international fly-half Owen Williams kicking four conversions and a penalty.
Irish replied through tries for wing Ollie Hassell-Collins, No8 Albert Tuisue and a double by substitute prop Ollie Hoskins, but Paddy Jackson had an off-day from the goalkicking tee, landing just two conversions, and they never seriously threatened to halt Worcester’s momentum.
Worcester handed debuts to four of their summer signings in Williams, his half-back Heinz, hooker Scott Baldwin and prop Christian Judge. Scotland internationals Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland were absent, though, as they continued on a mandatory rest period following the British and Irish Lions’ South Africa tour.
Irish also included a number of their new arrivals, but a late change on the bench saw former Ireland international flanker Sean O’Brien replaced by Jack Cooke. Worcester started brightly, with Nanai an immediate attacking threat, but Warriors were stung when Irish scored from their first attack.
"There are 20 players leaving the club at the end of the season… that has certainly been really tough, some tough conversations"@JonThom82 on the work behind the scenes & the hard calls needed as they rebuild @WorcsWarriors squad, writes @heagneyl ???https://t.co/gjCIa18pmc
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The forwards laid an imposing platform, pinning Worcester on their own line before Jackson floated an inch-perfect pass to Hassell-Collins, who finished strongly. Worcester, though, were ahead just ten minutes later as their pack proved unstoppable from a driven lineout, with Lewis claiming the touchdown and Williams converting for a 7-5 lead.
Irish saw scrum-half Ben White sin-binned nine minutes before the break for a high tackle on Kvesic. It seemed a harsh call by referee Craig Maxwell-Keys and Worcester looked to make their temporary one-man advantage count. Heinz then delivered the goods, taking a quick penalty before out-sprinting retreating Irish defenders to claim a fine solo try.
There was more still to come from Worcester before the break, as they conjured a third try as Irish suffered from losing White. Williams completed a successful 50:22 kick, which is among a handful of global law trials being adopted in the Premiership this term, and Worcester profited from the resulting lineout.
This time it was their backs that took charge, with centre Francois Venter delivering a quality inside pass to the impressive Nanai, who touched down. Williams converted, making it 19-5 at half-time. Irish knew they had to score first after the break and Tuisue pounced, crashing over from close range, although referee Maxwell-Keys consulted video replays before awarding the try.
Jackson sent the conversion attempt wide, missing a third successive kick, then Heinz intercepted Irish possession before darting clear, and although he was tackled by White, a supporting Kvesic finished off. Williams again converted and Worcester could see the finishing line, which they comfortably crossed despite Hoskins adding two late tries that secured a bonus point, as Humphreys rounded off a flowing long-range attack to cap an impressive afternoon’s work.
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