London Irish coach: Wilkinson is like a fine wineBy Alan Manicom
December 12, 2010
London Irish coach Toby Booth paid tribute to Jonny Wilkinson after the England fly-half all but ended his side's hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.
Wilkinson kicked four penalties and converted Rudi Wulf's try as Toulon beat Exiles 19-13 at Madejski Stadium today.
And Booth dismissed suggestions that the 31-year-old's game is on the decline.
He said: "Give me a 100-per-cent goalkicker any time. And apart from his goal-kicking, his defence was very good. He stopped George Stowers going full bore.
"He is like a fine wine - getting better and better."
But Booth insisted that South Africa No. 8 Joe van Niekerk was the outstanding player on show.
Exiles' boss added: "He was the difference between the two sides. I would never encourage a No. 8 to chip kick, but he did it. In fact the game seemed to revolve around him rather than Jonny!"
After taking nothing from Aviva Premiership defeats to Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers, Booth felt his side showed some improvement.
Delon Armitage scored their first-half try, crowning a superb counter-attack, begun by good defensive work and a superb one-handed offload by Sailosi Tagicakibau.
Ryan Lamb converted and added three more points after the break before his replacement Dan Bowden secured a losing bonus point with a late penalty.
Booth said: "Considering where we have come from in the last two weeks, there were a lot more positives today against the most expensive, if not the biggest set of forwards you are likely to see.
"We expect to win and the score is very disappointing, but when you look at the statistics for the first phase and turnovers, which were 20-20, it is about taking your opportunities.
"They had a 100-per-cent goalkicker and we did not."
Booth was not surprised that Toulon attacked London Irish from deep.
He said: "We took about 40 phone calls from Reading University where they did their captain's run, saying that was what they were practising."
But Exiles' coach was disappointed with the way his side allowed the French team to counter-attack.
"When we get massive field possession and end up turning the ball over, you have to ask questions. Our decision-making in key areas let us down.
"Everyone wants to look at their individual performance, but from an intensity point of view I was pleased.
"If you look at the set-piece, contact area and defence, make yourself hard to beat and have an attitude to attack you will come right.
"And I am confident we will return to winning ways pretty quickly."
Lamb had a mixed game at fly-half before being replaced by Bowden.
And Booth said: "There are certain things you accept with Ryan Lamb.
"There were a few people trying a little too hard to make up for a poor run of form.
"But sometimes you need to do the simple things."
To have any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup, London Irish will now need to win all their remaining three Pool 3 games, starting with the return match in Toulon next Saturday.
And Booth declared: "We have to go there to win. Hopefully we can get some good information from this game and be better prepared.
"London Irish do not like to do things the easy way - you saw that with our try."
"No-one gave us a chance when we won at Leinster last year."