Bristol Rugby travel to Worcester Warriors this weekend for a battle that could decide who remains in the Aviva Premiership and earns a spot in next season’s European Rugby Champions Cup.
Bristol took a huge step towards Premiership safety last weekend when Gavin Henson led them to a tense 12-11 triumph over West Country rivals Bath Rugby. Their league third win of the season has brought them to within two points of the Warriors, who were beaten 24-14 by Northampton Saints.
Sixways is no stranger to hosting huge games between the pair of relegation rivals. Worcester sealed promotion to the top-flight two seasons ago in dramatic fashion after Bristol looked to have won it with tries from Jack Lam, Jack Tovey and Matthew Morgan.
But a penalty try and Pennell's effort at the death, converted by Ryan Lamb, made it 30-30 on the night and 59-58 on aggregate. Both sides exited at the Challenge Cup group stages this season, but Bristol’s match winner Henson is determined to have another crack at European and Premiership rugby.
He said: “The Bath win was a huge result, and it's going to be a huge game next week. We’re used to playing Worcester in massive games, so we can't wait for next week.
“It was huge. It's a great feeling at the moment. It's been tough, the last couple of games haven't gone as we would have liked, and Alan Solomons has come in and had an effect. It's just a great feeling, but it means nothing if we don't back it up next week. So that's a massive focus this week.”
A win for Worcester would give them some breathing space at the bottom of the table. And Warriors Director of Rugby Gary Gold wants to see them sharpen their skills for the big game.
He said: “We need to polish the edges a little bit ahead of next week and be a lot more clinical in the things we are doing. It's a massive game. We will take each match as it comes but obviously the relevance of that game is crucial. We're very much looking forward to it.”