Worcester Warriors 15 London Irish 32By Peter Atkinson
April 27, 2009
Head coach Toby Booth felt it would have been “unjust” for his London Irish side not to be in the Guinness Premiership play-offs after securing third place with a bonus-point victory over Worcester.
Tries from wings Sailosi Tagikibau and Adam Thompstone, back row forwards Chris Hala’ufia and Delan Danaher plus scrum-half Paul Hodgson put them above Bath.
And they will now face second-placed Harlequins at Twickenham in a fortnight.
Booth said: “We achieved our minimum standard by qualifying for the Heineken Cup. Our three goals were simple. They were try and win the European Challenge Cup, be in the top six at Christmas and the top four at the end.
“So we have achieved two of those three objectives.
“What are you in this game for? You are in this game not to come second or third, you are in it to win something.
“There is a massive challenge before we get there but we are still in with a chance and that’s important.
“The points scored and against column is, I truly believe, the reason why we are here.
“We scored more points than anyone and conceded more and got more bonus points than anyone.
“I think it would have been unjust if we had not got in there and I just reminded the players of the fact that they have earned their shot.”
However, Booth does think Quins will be favourites to reach the Premiership final, adding: “Honours are even between us and I’ve heard they may move the game to Twickenham, which will be great as we can bring 20,000 fans which will be fantastic.
“That would be quite nice with it being a London derby. We have played them in double-headers before with 50,000 people watching so, whichever way it will be, it will be tough, but I’m just pleased we have a ticket in the lottery at the moment.”
Right from the start Worcester were under the cosh and their scrum was under huge pressure, as was the case at Kingsholm.
That had to tell and, when flanker Steffon Armitage rumbled into the home 22, he set up a sustained attack which ended with wing Sailosi Tagicakibau going over unopposed for a converted try.
Worcester, though, managed to stem the tide and produced a try when scrum-half Matt Powell fed hooker Chris Fortey to crash over and set a simple conversion for fly-half Joe Carlisle.
A penalty each from Carlisle and England full-back Delon Armitage kept the scores level at 10-10 when the interval arrived although Worcester nearly went in ahead, but number eight Netani Talei made a double-movement and gave Irish a clearing penalty.
With other matches going the Exiles’ way, they decided to go for a bonus-point win to land third place and an away draw against second-placed Harlequins rather than a trip to Leicester’s Welford Road.
And big No. 8 Chris Hala’ufia provided their second touchdown, an old-fashioned pick-up and drive from the back row at an attacking scrum.
By the 58th minute, Irish were all but there as scrum-half Paul Hodgson sneaked down the blindside of a ruck for their third touchdown and, after a Armitage burst up the middle, the ball found its way to flanker Declan Danaher out wide on the right to rumble over for the bonus-point try.
Worcester were shot and Irish began to enjoy themselves, even allowing 37-year-old Lion Mike Catt to come on with 20 minutes left.
The game was over when Adam Thompstone intercepted for London Irish’s fifth try, but Worcester never gave up and finally got a deserved consolation when replacement George Crook went over in the last seconds.
Worcester: L Crichton (rep: M Penn, 42), C Fellows, R Gear (rep: G Crook, 73), A Grove, M Benjamin, J Carlisle, M Powell (captain) (rep: J Arr, 52), C Black (rep: A Lutui, 73), C Fortey, D Morris (rep: S Ruwers, 52), G Kitchener, W Bowley, T Wood, J Collins, N Talei (rep: J Abbot, 65).
London Irish: D Armitge, A Thompstone, P Richards, S Mapusua, S Tagicakibau, P Hewat (rep: M Catt, 64), P Hodgson, C Dermody (rep: R Skuse, 72), D Coetzee (rep: J Buckland, 49), R Skuse (rep: A Corbisiero, 46), N Kennedy (rep: J Hudson 28-37) (rep: J Hudson, 74), B Casey (captain) (rep: G Johnson, 59), D Danaher, S Armitage (rep: R Thorpe, 68), C Hala’Ufia.
Referee: A Small (RFU).