Booth braced for citing fallout
February 1, 2009
London Irish scrum-half fends off the Gloucester defence during Saturday's bruising Premiership encounter at Kingsholm © Getty Images
London Irish boss Toby Booth was full of praise for his side's physical approach to their Premiership defeat to Gloucester but will not be surprised to hear from the citing commissioner.
The contest between the Premiership's top two sides at Kingsholm simmered with tension throughout with Gloucester conjuring an unlikely comeback to clinch a narrow 23-21 win that saw them climb back to the top of the table. Referee Dave Pearson sin-binned a player from each side, while Gloucester skipper Olivier Azam was penalised for an attempted trip and Irish No.8 Chris Hala'Ufia in particular walked a fine line with some crunching tackles..
"I thought there were quite a few leading elbows from various aspects, if I am honest," said Booth. "It will be a very interesting review for the citing commissioner, I would imagine.
"I knew we would have to be on the edge. Were we on the edge too much? I don't think we were, to be honest. Those are the balanced calls you make. I thought we had to match the edge they (Gloucester) brought, and I thought we did that."
Irish blew an 18-3 lead, compiled through early tries by wings Adam Thompstone and Topsy Ojo, as Olly Barkley kicked six penalties from seven attempts and his fellow England discard Iain Balshaw claimed a 50th Premiership career touchdown. Balshaw becomes the ninth member of that exclusive club, and his score seven minutes from time completed a remarkable revival as Gloucester bounced back admirably after their demoralising Heineken Cup pool stage exit just eight days earlier.
"We penalised ourselves out of the game," said Booth. "We didn't have any ball in the second-half, and the ball we did have we kicked away. If it turns out we've been penalised for the same thing two or three times, then we've been pretty dull, to be fair.
"We knew it was a massive challenge. What I am pleased about is the physicality we showed to live with people on their own patch."
The gloss was taken off Gloucester's first win in four games though, by a sickening injury to their scrum-half prospect Dave Lewis. Lewis suffered a broken ankle after falling awkwardly following a Hala'Ufia tackle, joining Gloucester's Wales international Gareth Cooper (knee) on the sidelines.
Assessing his team's display, Gloucester head coach Dean Ryan said, "There has been a lot of stuff thrown around about us in the last month. We could have trotted excuses out, but you cannot hide from pressure.
"We are not playing our best rugby. But we are top of the league - which, in my quiet moments, I find quite amusing! Everyone has been screaming for us to play more, but it is about playing at the right times."
Sale Sharks moved third in the table after recording a bonus point victory at Worcester, whose Australian fullback Chris Latham suffered a worrying neck injury. "Chris is to undergo scans, because it appears to be a neck ligament problem," said Worcester rugby director Mike Ruddock. "For a period of time, he lost feeling in his arms and legs, but it has returned. The medical team are reasonably confident he will be okay."
Worcester conceded four tries in a 37-20 loss - but Ruddock denied his team had been affected by head coach Clive Griffiths' departure from the club last Wednesday. Charlie Hodgson kicked 17 points for Sale, who also claimed touchdowns through Chris Bell, Oriol Ripol, Neil Briggs and Chris Jones.
Northampton, unbeaten at home this season, suffered a seventh Premiership loss on the road when they crashed 27-6 against Harlequins. "Mentally, we weren't right," said Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder.
"We were beaten in just about every area. Quins did well slowing down our ball, so we failed to get on the front foot, and then we made an awful lot of mistakes in attack and defence. It is becoming a big disappointment not managing to win any games away, and on that display we won't."
Northampton were undone by by touchdowns from Gary Botha and Jim Evans, while Quins also collected a penalty try and Nick Evans kicked 12 points.
Huw Richards profiles French forward Walter Spanghero, a man who even rugby's hard men thought was a tough nut
"To be part of the Commonwealth Games, I'd wear anything. I'd wear a clown suit." Tom Hamilton talks to Scotland's Sean Lamont
Scrum Sevens looks back at how rugby has fared in both the early Olympics and the past four Commonwealth Games
"Cheika's been phenomenal. He gives you an incredible level of mental strength." Tom Hamilton talks to Waratahs star Jacques Potgieter