WORCESTER boss Richard Hill breathed an audible sigh of relief after Kai Horstmann’s late try booked his Warriors a place in the RFU Championship final.
In a thrilling Sky Sports televised contest, captain Horstmann picked up and drove over from a scrum for Joe Carlisle to convert.
That was after a mortified Graham Kitchener had the ball knocked out of his grasp as he was about to touch down and just before the final drama of the day – Television Match Official David Matthews judging the ball had gone into the dead ball area and bounced back before Bedford replacement Duncan Taylor pounced on it.
Worcester will now play Cornish Pirates over two legs on May 11 and 18.
Cornish Pirates v Worcester – Wednesday 11 May
Worcester v Cornish Pirates – Wednesday 18 May
But it was nearly Bedford in the final as they led 19-3 after 20 minutes and Hill admitted: “We started off poorly. We were too anxious and gave too many penalties away. I haven’t seen us knock on so many balls and lose so much possession in contact. Bedford came with nothing to lose and they were more relaxed. I am sure we won’t be as nervous as that in the final.
“I still had faith that we would win the game and was reasonably calm because we had most of the possession and territory in the second half. But we couldn’t have argued if Bedford had won that game.”
Bedford Blues Director of Rugby Mike Rayer said: “We brought a massive amount of attitude and defence to the game and no little attack but sadly we didn’t get the result. We played some great rugby in the first half but in the second half we didn’t have enough field position to keep the scoreboard ticking over.”
The Blues started with a bang, captain James Pritchard making Worcester pay for their indiscipline by knocking over three penalties in the first 11 minutes for a 9-0 lead.
When the Warriors did get into the Beford half they squandered their best chance when Tom Arscott was bundled into touch with the free-scoring Marcel Garvey waiting outside him.
Bedford extended their lead after 18 minutes when fullback Edd Thrower was put into the corner by Tom Bedford after a crossfield move.
Worcester hit back with an Andy Goode penalty before Pritchard added another three points for hands in the ruck.
The Warriors got back in the frame before halftime when Arscott fielded a high bomb from Jake Sharp, split the defence with a counter attack and then fed Goode who raced away to the line.
Goode kicked the conversion and then closed the gap to six points (19-13) with a penalty when Myles Dorrian was pinged for not rolling away in the tackle.
Bedford started the second half stronger, the faultless Pritchard kicking a fifth penalty when Craig Gillies was sinbinned for not rolling away in the tackle and the Canadian could have been on the try sheet if Thrower had passed to him on the 22.
When Goode just missed a penalty from the halfway line and then Kitchener lost the ball it looked set not to be the Warriors’ day. But they pressed the Bedford line with scrum after scrum and Horstmann drove over for Carlisle to convert.
Then came the drama of Dorrian’s missed drop goal and the TMO referral before Sixways erupted with joy.
Worcester Warriors: T Arscott; M Garvey, A Crockett (A Grove 70), D Rasmussen, M Benjamin; A Goode (J Carlisle 66), J Arr; A Black, A Lutui (C Fortey 70), T Taumoepeau (B Douglas 66), G Rawlinson (G Kitchener 62), C Gillies, N Best, M Kvesic (J Abbott 63), K Horstmann (capt). Rep not used: O Frost.
Yellow card: Gillies 50-60
Scorers: Tries – Goode, Horstmann; Pens – Goode (3); Cons – Goode, Carlisle.
Bedford Blues: E Thrower; H Schmidt, M Dorrian, T Bedford, J Pritchard (capt); J Sharp (D Taylor 53), W Chudley; D Seal, D Richmond, P Boulton (S Walsh 63), M Howard (S Tomes 71), G Kruis (W Fraser 71), G Gillanders, A Rae, P Tupai (C Goodman 60). Reps not used: C Locke, D Veenendaal.
Yellow cards: Walsh 70-80
Scorers: Try – Thrower; Pens – Pritchard (5); Con – Pritchard
Referee: A Small (RFU)