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Rugby Union: Departing Drahm leads Worcester to victory; GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP Worcester Warriors 23 Leicester Tigers 19.

Byline: By Douglas Simmonds at Sixways

Mike Ruddock may now be wishing that he could turn back time and use his powers of persuasion to convince Shane Drahm not to end his three-year spell at Sixways.

The Australian-born fly half jets off to Japanese outfit Kubota Spears at the end of the present campaign and, on the evidence of his performance on Saturday, the Far East's gain is most definitely Worcester's loss.

Drahm, 30, had a hand in all three of Warriors' tries and, although a couple of tough conversions went wayward, his cool kicking led Worcester to an unlikely victory over the Guinness Premiership's reigning champions.

And the ex-Northampton man's inspirational performance comes only weeks after he was dumped at National One Launceston on loan and only months after he was dragged through the law courts following an off-the field altercation.

Now, with Loki Crichton and James Brown misfiring and youngster Joey Carlisle still raw, Drahm appears to be Ruddock's perfect solution at fly half.

However, the scrum half berth will also prove to be another headache for Worcester's director of rugby. The inconsistent Matt Powell's passing was a weakness for Warriors all afternoon and rival No 9 Ryan Powell may find himself back in the starting line-up for next Sunday's crunch showdown at Leeds.

It was the starting Powell's poor pass that led to Leicester notching up their only try of the match after a mere 22 seconds. Drahm was put under unnecessary pressure on the try-line and fit-again Harry Ellis' charge-down handed Brett Deacon a simple try, converted by Andy Goode.

With Worcester on the back foot for the final minutes of the match with a slender four-point lead, it turned out to be a nerve-jangling afternoon for Ruddock.

He said: "It was a poor start for us and a tough end when it could have slipped away but I thought in between we were the better team.

"We scored three great tries and our attacking game at times was very effective, while the quality of our strike plays looked very good.

"In fairness to Leicester they had the start they needed with that gift try and the quality of their forward play was very good. Their driving lineout was very effective, their pick-and-go game was very effective and our old problems came back.

"Penalties around the contact area put us under pressure and when we played rugby I thought we were quite outstanding at times. We were ten points ahead and possibly got a bit loose thinking we could go on and grab that bonus point which put us under a bit of pressure. Leicester never say die and in the end we were hanging on but the courage and spirit we showed at the end to repel their attacks was exactly what we were looking for."

After the early hammer blow, two penalties from Drahm eased Worcester's nerves but Goode's set-piece just after the half-hour kept the Warriors at arm's length.

The hosts looked like taking a one-point lead into the break when Greg Rawlinson latched on to Drahm's pass and smashed his way through at least three tackles to dot down in the corner yet Goode's final kick of the half was a successful penalty which made it 13-11 to the visitors.

Yet the second half started in perfect fashion to allow Worcester to march to their first back-to-back top-flight victories of the season.

Drahm was the creator as lively wingers Marcel Garvey and Miles Benjamin crossed on 43 and 47 minutes respectively.

However, Worcester's tendency to throw wins away at the death looked set to return because Goode had managed to chip away at their lead with two penalties.

Yet despite the blow of losing Drew Hickey, another Kubota-bound player, to the sin-bin Worcester displayed their Warriors' spirit in their own 22 to take a huge stride towards safety.

WORCESTER: Delport; Garvey, Rasmussen, Tuitupou, Benjamin; Drahm, M Powell (R Powell 70); Windo (Mullan 73), Lutui, Taumoepeau, Rawlinson (Bowley 73), Gillies, Wood (Hickey 65), Sanderson, Horstmann. Replacements not used: Ruwers, Carlisle, Pennell.

LEICESTER: Vesty; Varndell, Smith, Youngs, Tuilagi; Goode, Ellis (Murphy 52); Stankovich (Kayser 61), Davies (Ayerza 61), White, Corry, L Deacon, B Deacon, Pienaar, Crane. Replacements not used: Moreno, Gillanders, Humphreys, Cornwell.

Referee: Chris White (RFU).

CAPTION(S):

Worcester's Greg Rawlinson (above) beats Leicester's Martin Corry to the ball in the lineout while (below) Alesana Tuilagi, of Leicester, wins the ball from Marcel Garvey. Left: Shane Drahm showed how much he will be missed at Sixways Pictures, MATTHEW LEWIS/GETTY IMAGES
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 10, 2008
Words:758
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