London Irish edge out Worcester
September 14, 2013
Tempers flare between London Irish's Marland Yarde and Worcester's Ignacio Mieres
© Getty Images
A late Ian Humphreys penalty secured London Irish a barely-deserved 20-18 victory over Worcester Warriors at Sixways on Saturday.
The Exiles won just once away in the Aviva Premiership last season but some late ill-discipline from the hosts ensured they were able to immediately get off the mark this term on their travels. Marland Yarde scored a pair of tries but it was Humphreys who was the match winner with four minutes left after Ed Shervington was penalised. David Lemi and Ignacio Mieres scored the Warriors' two tries with the Argentinian adding eight points from his boot.
Worcester were left with only themselves to blame for defeat after they had been the better side but failed to take their chances, especially in the absence of the yellow-carded Chris Hala'ufia. The Warriors failed to score in his absence at the end of the first half before seeing Yarde touch down to level matters at 10-10 at half-time.
Irish only had two significant chances to score tries in the whole match but Yarde made the most of both to pave the way for a morale-boosting win. Both sides made changes following last weekend's defeats.
Paul Andrew, Euan Murray and Chris Jones were introduced into the Worcester pack whilst Irish gave Andy Fenby a first start on the wing with number eight Hala'ufia recalled to make his 100th appearance for the club.
Mieres gave Warriors an early lead with a penalty but when Ravai Faitaki was harshly penalised for tackling Yarde without the ball, Humphreys levelled the scores with the resulting penalty.
With the first major attacking movement of the match, Worcester passed the ball sweetly along their three-quarter line for Chris Pennell to produce a splendid offload to create a try for Lemi. Mieres converted to give the hosts a 10-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Humphreys had a chance to reduce that lead but his long distance penalty attempt sailed wide before Irish suffered a further blow when Hala'ufia was yellow carded for kneeing an opponent in a ruck.
The Warriors should have taken advantage of Hala'ufia's absence when strong runs from Faitaki and Semisi Taulava gained them a position five metres out from the Irish line, but a careless knock on allowed the visitors the chance to relieve the pressure.
Worcester dominated against the 14 men with one magical burst from Lemi threatening the visitors' line but Hala'ufia returned with no damage done to the scoreboard. Almost immediately, Worcester were made to pay for their wasted chances as Irish again drew level when Eamonn Sheridan created an opportunity for Yarde which the wing took in great style.
Yarde flew past three opponents to race away on a 40-metre run to the line for the try which Humphreys converted for a 10-10 half-time scoreline. Yarde did take exception to Mieres' challenge as the wing touched down by getting up and appearing to punch his opponent but the referee took no action.
Eight minutes after the restart, Irish were ahead for the first time when neat offloads from Sheridan and Topsy Ojo gave Yarde another chance and once again the wing took it, easily evading Pennell's cover tackle for a try which Humphreys converted. A second penalty from Mieres saw the visitors' advantage reduced to four points going into the final quarter.
Mieres missed a penalty but following sustained pressure the fly-half put Warriors ahead collecting a clever pass from Josh Matavesi to escape the Irish defence for a try he failed to convert. With four minutes left, Shervington was penalised with Humphreys making no mistake with his wide-angled kick to give Irish a last-gasp win.
Worcester coach Dean Ryan was far from happy with the decision to award the late penalty. "For the second week in a row there has been some random refereeing," he said. "There is an element of ill-discipline but I believe we are not getting a fair crack and I was astounded by the award of the last penalty."
He added: "We have good footballers in this side but we need maturity as we are undoing all our good work by blowing pressure situations."
Coach Brian Smith was delighted to see his side claim a rare away win having won only once away from home last season. "I know they'll be disappointed as you hate to lose games in that fashion," he said. "The teams were evenly matched, it was see-saw stuff and we nicked it at the end but we played with great spirit."
Smith hailed two-try hero Yarde and said: "His finish is lethal and he is as good as there is in the game. He was finding his feet last season but now he's the real deal. His biggest strength is his willingness to learn but I believe there's still 25 per cent improvement to come."
London Irish's Chris Hala'ufia fends off Worcester's Jonathan Thomas © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Download ESPN's new UK multisport app, a fresh and powerful new way to follow your favourite UK sports news, scores and video.
As Scotland decides its future, Scrum Sevens looks at a group of players who transcended rugby both for country and the British & Irish Lions
Ahead of November's USA-All Blacks match, America's ESPN Magazine explains rugby to its readers who may not be familiar with the game
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup