Worcester 71, Otley 14: OTLEY travelled down to Worcester's fine stadium at Sixways to find the pitch in perfect condition but a half gale blowing down the pitch. Ryan Duckett came in for the injured Ian Shuttleworth at full-back whilst Peter Wright and Hapafila Liu made rare starts, Andy Brown and Duncan Sayers sitting it out on the bench.

Ex-Gloucester coach John Brain has recently taken full command on the training ground for the Midlanders and his fresh approach was well demonstrated on the pitch as his expensively gathered side obviously enjoyed the new freedom he asked for.

He does have good material to work with. Although Ben Clarke and Craig Chalmers were unfit he still turned out seven with international experience and almost all the squad have been with Premier Division clubs including six from his old club, plus one Italian, two Australians, two New Zealanders and just the one ex-St Helens RL centre.

In addition to their players being full-time professionals they have been awarded a licence, the only one outside the Premiership, to be an England Rugby Academy, the funding for which has enabled them to recruit Nigel Redman, who will have 20 full-time 18 to 20-year-olds under his charge.

The game began disastrously for Otley. They knocked on from their kick-off and saw the ball whipped out to the left and before a minute was out Chris Garrard had scored the first of his five tries. Making light of it, the visitors had a really good spell and with a little luck might have replied. For 12 minutes they kept Worcester penned in their half and this whilst playing into the wind, a beautifully weighted kick from Simon Binns to the corner would have produced a try for Will Darby except for a most cruel bounce and whilst Worcester were desperately defending their line Wright was within inches of creeping over.

Unfortunately it ended in tears as Worcester broke away. Good rucking and driving took them downfield and centre Ben Hinshelwood cut through to put Garrard in again but Otley brought their supporters to their feet when Duckett and Darby combined to make ground down the left only to concede a penalty and find themselves defending a close line-out. The forward assault was held but a penalty was conceded for off-side and fly-half Tony Yapp took a quick tap and scurried over. He converted as he did with eight out of the 11 tries scored.

A home put in at a scrum in the visitors' 22 saw Yapp delay a pass for Hinshelwood to run onto. His try quickly followed by a third for Garrard, and with home backs creating gaps, No. 6 Neil Mason was backing up to take a pass on Otley's line and go over.

Otley continued to keep the play open and soon after the break a long miss-pass by Binns found Duckett. He was pulled down metres short but a penalty was conceded which was nudged into touch and this time the drive brought results, Ian Carroll being driven over, Binns converting.

However, they could not stem the tide and Garrard grabbed another two tries, followed by centre Chris Yates and full-back Duncan Rake. Robert Whatmuff was harshly adjudged not to have moved away from the tackle quickly enough and was shown a yellow card.

Incidentally, Otley are leading the fair play league but when he was due to return, when all the subs had been used, it was decided not to risk his ankle injury so Otley played out with 14 men.

From then on they defended well, conceding only a penalty try on 75 minutes and they had the last word when sub Tim Foster completed an excellent move to touch down, Binns again converting.

Phil Griffin and Phil Greaves were both taken off early but it is hoped that everyone will be fit for the crunch game against Wakefield at Cross Green on Saturday.

Coach Peter Clegg will select from a 22 man squad which includes veteran Steve Rice.The game kicks-off at 3 pm.