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).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

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
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones