You would not have dared write the script. Chris Pennell, Worcester’s favourite son and a man who stood by them throughout relegation, scores a last minute try , and Ryan Lamb nervelessly slots the conversion to draw the game on the night, and give Worcester a one point win on aggregate over the two legs of the Championship final.
In terms of pure drama, it was right up there with anything we have seen in the sport. But the utter devastation and disbelief on the faces of the Bristol players painted an entirely different picture.
That only one of Worcester or Bristol could be promoted is immeasurably cruel and even more so when you consider that it is heartbreak for Bristol in the final second for a second season in a row. But really, they should never have been in this situation again.
Play-offs in the Premiership can be explained away – the final has become a true spectacle and draws in the crowds, and the money. It also offsets the times in the calendar when some sides have players away on international duty, meaning you still have a shot at the title even if all your top players are missing for swathes of the season and you suffer a blip in form.
Neither of those arguments apply to the Championship. The final is played over two legs, at the homes of the two finalists, serving only to add one extra gate’s takings to the coffers. A drop in the ocean compared to a season in the Premiership, of course. And 99% of the players in the league do not receive call-ups for international periods.
This season, almost from week one, it has been obvious that Bristol and Worcester would occupy the top two spots. Knowing the play-off system, it becomes almost pointless who finishes first and who second-which surely just makes a mockery of the league system in itself.
Bristol beat Worcester home and away in the regular season-to turn around and then say they have to do it again in a play-off competition is both bonkers and unnecessary-have they not already proved themselves to be better?
Bristol should have been promoted last year, after walking the league season. That would, in all likelihood, have led Worcester doing the same this season, and both would be competing in the Premiership next year. Instead, Bristol will have to go through the motions for another nine months to get to another play-off final, and the only couple of really meaningful games in their season.
The Premiership ring-fencing is a debate for another time, but the scrapping of the Championship play-off system is one that should be had now.