Worcester Warriors 35 Oyonnax 14.

WORCESTER Warriors’ European Challenge Cup campaign is simmering nicely at the halfway stage.

In the past two seasons Warriors’ hopes of progressing in the competition had been left on thin ice when the temperatures plummeted in December.

But at a freezing Sixways on Saturday Warriors brushed away the snow before sweeping aside Oyonnax in a 35-14 victory.

The maximum point triumph saw them briefly take pole position in Pool Five before Connacht regained top spot with a 38-31 win at Brive that evening.

But after three games Warriors remain hot on the heels of the Irish outfit as they trail them by three points and will look to crank up the heat when they visit Oyonnax on Friday.

With only David Denton keeping his place in the starting line-up, a much-changed Warriors team took time to get going against the French side.

And their line-out struggled to fire at times as an overthrow from Joe Taufete’e allowed Hika Elliot to score the opening try.

But with so many players desperate to prove their worth and number eight Denton working his socks off Warriors overcame their plucky opponents.

Tom Howe bagged a brace to strengthen his case for a more regular starting shirt before Luke Baldwin came off the bench to score and Denton crossed late on to seal the bonus point.

There were also impressive showings from centre Max Stelling, fly-half Sam Olver and stand-in skipper Ryan Bower as Warriors boosted their chances of progressing.

With Christmas almost upon us Worcester were keen to give their supporters some further festive cheer.

But instead they gift wrapped a try to Oyonnax. Taufete’e sent the ball straight over the top of the line-out and into the hands of ex-New Zealand hooker Elliot who powered over.

Christopher Ruiz’s conversion attempt struck the upright but the fly-half split the posts with a penalty 10 minutes later to give his side an 8-0 lead.

Another mistake almost put Oyonnax in for a second as Dean Hammond failed to collect a pass and Ruiz pounced.

The stand-off hacked ahead and appeared to be clear through before Olver sprinted back and did brilliantly to secure the ball.

Warriors then thought they had scored themselves midway through the half.

After a wayward lineout from Oyonnax, Denton burrowed over under the posts only for the try to be ruled out for a double movement.

The hosts finally got off the mark on 24 minutes with a penalty from Olver before the number 10 added another moments later.

Ruiz hit back with a three-pointer to nudge his side 11-6 in front, but Warriors were starting to edge proceedings and the pressure soon told.

With six minutes to go before half-time, the ball was moved wide and Howe was on hand to dive over with Olver landing the touchline conversion.

The lead then changed hands twice at the start of the second period as Ruiz converted his third penalty before Olver responded.

But Warriors’ extra spark in the backline proved the difference as Howe started a move with a burst down the left before finishing in the corner after being put in by Howard.

Olver missed the conversion but Warriors were now 21-14 ahead and put the match to bed in the final 10 minutes.

Firstly, Baldwin darted through to score after Worcester smashed Oyonnax in the scrum before the number nine turned provider as Denton muscled his way over for his side’s fourth try on 74 minutes.

Olver converted both to wrap up a convincing home win.