LEEDS secured their Premiership status with a hard-fought victory over Worcester to end the Warriors’ six-year stay in the top-flight.
Four penalties in the opening 25 minutes from Ceiron Thomas put the hosts in control but Alex Grove’s try set up a thrilling finale.
But the game was up for Worcester when replacement fly-half Matthew Jones saw his stoppage-time drop goal attempt charged down, sparking joyous scenes among the 10,000-strong Headingley faithful.
“That final whistle couldn't come soon enough,” said relieved Leeds rugby director Andy Key. “It was a case that we felt we were trying to lose the game and not win it. But thankfully our defence in that last 90 seconds was good enough to force an error from them and we’ll just take the win.”
Defeat will call the future of Worcester’s director of rugby Mike Ruddock into further question with former Gloucester chief Dean Ryan tipped to take over the reigns at Sixways next season.
Asked of his future, Ruddock said: “Who knows? We’ve just had a major disappointment and those are not the things I want to talk about and if I do want to talk about them, I will talk about them with the chairman.”
Ruddock will blame ill-discipline from his side for allowing Thomas to kick the hosts into a sound early lead, although Willie Walker gave the Warriors hope with a penalty back.
Walker, however, then missed two kickable penalties before Grove crossed the line from a Jones chip to narrow the gap. Jones then also missed a kick as the Warriors surged forward before his charged down drop-goal attempt spelt the end.