James O'Connor heaps woe on Worcester
January 4, 2014
James O'Connor was the star of the show for London Irish
© Getty Images
James O'Connor scored all 22 of London Irish's points as they stretched the gap at the foot of the table to 14 points.
Australian ace O'Connor contributed a try, a conversion and five penalties as Irish produced a strong second-half performance to claim the win and put a healthy gap between themselves and the rock-bottom Warriors, whose hopes of avoiding relegation now look all but over.
Worcester were firmly in contention at 6-6 at the interval but they were swept aside after the break to crash to a 12th successive defeat this season, with their points coming from three Chris Pennell penalties.
The visitors made only two changes from last week's defeat against Saracens, with Paul Warwick making his first Premiership start for over two months in place of Ignacio Mieres at fly-half while Ravai Fatiaki came into the centre in place of the injured Andy Symons. Following last week's home loss to Gloucester, Irish also made a change at outside half with Shane Geraghty picked in place of Ian Humphreys. John Yapp, Mike Mayhew and Leo Halavatau formed a new front row and there was a recall for wing Saliosi Tagicakibau.
Irish enjoyed much the better of the opening 10 minutes but were unable to translate that into points with O'Connor missing an early penalty attempt. However, with basic errors from the Warriors preventing them from getting out of their own half, the Irish were able to build up considerable pressure and they were rewarded when O'Connor put them ahead with an 11th-minute penalty.
Worcester hit back soon after though and, after a couple of line-out drives put Irish on the back foot and led to a Worcester penalty, Pennell successfully converted to make it 3-3. O'Connor then missed another kick and, against the run of play, Pennell kicked his second penalty to put Worcester ahead.
Their lead lasted just six minutes though before O'Connor drew the teams level just before half-time, and Worcester would never be in front again. A loss of possession by Fatiaki and an excellent kick from Tomas O'Leary gave Irish early impetus at the start of the second half and they took a 9-6 lead when O'Connor drilled over his third penalty of the match.
The Irish pack then became the dominant force with the visitors' eight conceding another penalty, which allowed O'Connor to kick his fourth goal and increase the gap between the teams. With half an hour remaining, Worcester brought on Jonny Arr at scrum-half in place of the disappointing Jeremy Su'a in an attempt to provide more pace to their game.
Pennell was narrowly short with a long-range penalty before Irish produced another formidable line-out drive. The Warriors dragged it down and in a double blow for the visitors, Leonardo Senatore was yellow carded before O'Connor slotted over his kick.
With 20 minutes remaining, the game was up for Worcester with O'Connor's try putting the game beyond them. Irish had battered the visitors' defence which gave O'Connor the space to race outside Josh Drauniniu for the only try of the match, which the full-back also converted.
Pennell kicked his third penalty as Worcester saved their best period of pressure for the last 10 minutes but, even when Irish replacement prop Jamie Hagan was yellow carded for repeated scrummage offences, the Warriors could not get any closer as they slumped to yet another loss.
Blair Cowan forces his way through the Worcester Warriors defence © Getty Images
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
On Saturday, New Zealand face the USA in a match that has been 40 years in the making. Tom Hamilton finds the atmosphere building in Chicago
Most modern rugby players will not know the name Ray Williams but they should be eternally grateful to him, writes John Taylor
With the All Blacks playing the USA Eagles this weekend, Craig Dowd says rugby is ready to make a professional breakthrough Stateside
"He had a death stare so you'd know when you were wrong." George Kruis talks about his mentor Borthwick, fly-fishing and his England aspirations