Armitage ponders move after Irish squeak home

London Irish 21 Sale 19

The Madejski Stadium

A tenacious battle between two clubs bubbling just under the Premiership's play-off places ended with recriminations against the referee and intrigue over the future of London Irish's England full-back, Delon Armitage.

The lead changed hands six times in the second half, but finished in Irish's favour when Adrian Jarvis kicked a 76th-minute penalty from about 30 metres' distance on the diagonal. Jarvis, formerly of Harlequins, Bristol and Leeds, is not Irish's regular kicker – Tom Homer, the first choice, had been substituted with a tweaked groin just after the hour – but the fly-half had already shown his nerve with a 40-metre kick in the 66th minute when there were shouts not a million miles away from the home coaches' seats to give the honour to centre, Steve Shingler.

This is the same Shingler whose international eligibility is being wrangled over by Wales and Scotland, with the International Rugby Board due to rule on it this week. But there were more immediate arguments over the scrum offence that gave Jarvis his second shot at the posts, after Nick Macleod's fourth penalty had put Sale 19-18 up.

Irish had established a good nudge on the loosehead side occupied by their England international Alex Corbisiero to force the Sale scrum to retreat and be skewed clockwise. The referee Wayne Barnes's arm rocketed skywards: a decision the home head coach Toby Booth saw as quite correct. "You can clearly see we were going forward and Sale walked round," said Booth. "You reward a dominant scrum."

But Booth's opposite number, the Sale executive director of sport (soon to be chief executive) Steve Diamond could not have disagreed more. "The wheel went out of the Premiership game 10 years ago," said Diamond. "It should have been a reset not a penalty." He then accused Barnes, one of the world's highest-ranked officials, of turning up late (50 minutes before kick-off) and being "flustered for some reason, maybe with the traffic... He certainly didn't referee to our liking."

Diamond, a former hooker, did however agree with Barnes's ruling of a yellow card (no more) for David Paice's tackle on Andy Powell after 49 minutes. Powell was upended but crucially Paice, the Irish hooker, appeared to keep hold of the No.8 as Powell landed on his arm and back. The last thing Irish needed, given their long list of injuries, was to be any more short-handed but they survived Paice's absence no worse for wear on the scoreboard, with Macleod and Homer kicking a penalty each in that 10 minutes though Homer had also suffered his third miss.

During the opening 10 minutes there was only one side in it and they weren't wearing green. With Richie Vernon punching up the middle, Sale had a try by Rob Miller and a conversion and penalty by Macleod to lead 10-0.

There were seven Welshmen on the field though the most authentically Welsh name belonged to the former All Black forward Bryn Evans whose try converted by Homer on 11 minutes established a long period of London Irish dominance. Darren Allinson's tap-and-go was held, but Armitage organised the recycling and fed Jarvis whose pass was moved on by Shingler to Evans. Amid the cosmopolitan personnel – we even had the Premiership's first Moldovan, Vadim Cobilas, Sale's tighthead replacement – Armitage showed why he is arguably England's finest full-back talent.

But after four disciplinary bans in 2011, and with a reported offer from Toulon to move to France next season, he was said by Booth to be viewing his inclusion or otherwise in the England squad this Wednesday as a sign of whether to stay or go.

Armitage's class was needed with the backs Dan Bowden, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Jonathan Joseph, Joe Ansbro and Shontayne Hape all missing for Irish. The forwards were in better nick and a Sale scrum conceded a turnover after 23 minutes that ended with Shingler's deft grubber in behind Tom Brady for Irish's second try by Topsy Ojo.

Macleod's final penalty came when Homer's replacement Marland Yarde flew into a tackle and was pinned on the wrong side. But Jarvis took the lead back and Irish finished with Yarde timing a blitzing tackle on Miller just right, and a rip of the ball by Evans.

Scorers: London Irish: Tries: Evans, Ojo; Conversion: Homer; Penalties: Homer, Jarvis 2.

Sale Sharks: Try: Miller; Conversion: Macleod; Penalties: Macleod 4.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo (A Thompstone, 77), J Spratt, S Shingler, T Homer (M Yarde, 61); A Jarvis, D Allinson; C Dermody (capt, A Corbisiero, 61), D Paice, P Ion (F Rautenbach, 61), N Kennedy (B Casey, 77), M Garvey, B Evans, J Gibson (D Sisi, 17), A Gray (J Buckland, 58-59).

Sale: R Miller; T Brady, J Leota, S Tuitupou (capt), J Tuculet; N Macleod, D Peel (C Willis, 72); A Dickinson, M Jones, T Buckley (V Cobilas, 55), F McKenzie, J Gaskell (K Myall, 47), R Vernon, O Auva'a, A Powell (M Easter, 59).

Referee: W Barnes (London).

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas