HEAD coach Carl Hogg believes Worcester Warriors have put themselves in a “very strong” position to progress to the knock-out stages of the European Challenge Cup.

A brace of tries from Tom Howe helped Warriors secure a bonus-point 35-14 win over Oyonnax at Sixways on Saturday.

Connacht remain Pool Five leaders after registering a third straight victory in the competition with a 38-31 triumph at Brive.

But with second-placed Warriors just three points behind Connacht with three games left Hogg is optimistic over his side’s chances of qualifying.

The five pool winners and three best-placed runners-up will gain places in the quarter-finals.

“I think we are in a very strong position,” Hogg said.

“Clearly we have got to go to Oyonnax next Friday and get a positive result over there.

“Connacht have also got to come to Sixways so it is still very much in the balance.

“But we got the job done on Saturday and have got to credit the players for sticking at it.

“It was not a game where we pitched up and ran away with it.

“We had to sit in the arm wrestle and had to do the simple things very well to come away with a win.”

Oyonnax led 8-0 after an early try from Hika Elliot before two Sam Olver penalties and a converted Howe try gave Worcester a 13-11 lead at half-time.

Christopher Ruiz edged Oyonnax back in front with his third penalty of the afternoon at the start of the second period.

But Warriors then scored 22 unanswered points as Howe notched his second before Luke Baldwin and David Denton went over in the final 11 minutes.

Hogg praised his players for their patience and “outstanding” ability to stick to the game plan as Warriors eventually overcame the plucky French outfit.

“It was a very hard-fought victory,” Hogg said.

“Oyonnax turned up to play so we had to be patient and we eventually we built a score.

“It was a slow start, but some of this group hadn’t played for a little while so we looked a little bit rusty in that first 10 to 15 minutes.

“But I thought the way we fought back and stuck to the plan was outstanding and we got our rewards in that last 20 minutes.”

Just over 6,500 fans turned out for the clash on a bitterly cold afternoon but Hogg insisted they played a big part in the victory.

“We always get a very vocal support at Sixways and I was delighted to see them get behind the side,” Hogg added.

“Having got off to a slow start I thought we built momentum and the crowd lifted us for that last 20 minutes which helped us get the bonus-point win.”

Ex-New Zealand hooker Elliot felt the intensity of the match proved too much for Oyonnax’s younger players in the final quarter.

“It is a bit tough to take as we were in it for 60 minutes,” said the 31-year-old.

“I thought we were the better side in the first half but the intensity got to a few of the younger boys.

“We really let ourselves down in the last 20 minutes.

“If we could have stuck in there and not allowed the mistakes get to us we would have been there or thereabouts but unfortunately we were just off the mark.”