Booth backs Armitage after latest incident overshadows Exiles' win

London Irish 29 Exeter 22
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The Independent Online

The London Irish head coach, Toby Booth, defended a first-half incident in his side's Premiership victory over Exeter at the Madejski Stadium which could have landed England's Delon Armitage in more hot water.

Armitage was on song, with Booth describing as "great" his rousing performance yesterday, which carried Irish into third place in the table. But the full-back courted more controversy in a difficult season when he clattered into Exeter's fly-half, Ignacio Mieres. The Argentine was left shaken for a few minutes on the touchline by his own 22.

Armitage only returned to action with Irish this month after a five-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Bath wing Tom Biggs and a concurrent ban for striking lock Dave Attwood with his knee in the same match in October. It was his fourth suspension this year.

Booth's view was that yesterday's incident was something and nothing, although officials may want to review it on account of the player's troubled record. The Irishman said: "He went in for a tackle from behind and, as the player has bent down, he has gone up over the top of him. It is a penalty at most in my opinion. But, as always, because of what has gone before, people will have a closer look."

Rob Baxter, the Exeter coach, had a different take: "It certainly dazed him [Mieres]. There is definitely an arm over the top. That is not alleged, you can see that pretty clearly. The touch judge was in a pretty good position and he gave his worth on what he thought it was. I'm not too concerned about that, you just have to get on with it and play."

Centres Joe Ansbro, in the first half, and Shontayne Hape touched down for the Exiles, while young wing Tom Homer, the Premiership's leading points scorer, added 19 more with his boot.

Exeter were always chasing the game after Ansbro's try on three minutes, but showed their fighting spirit with Mieres kicking five penalties and converting a try from full-back Luke Arscott.

Irish were never comfortably ahead, even though they led 19-9 at half-time. Exeter never give in, but it was not enough and the pair are now tied on points in mid-table. Booth said: "We took our chances and I'm delighted about that. We started exceptionally well, we took the game by the scruff of the neck.

"What I would say about the contest is there was a lot of endeavour from both sides and, from a crowd point of view, it would suggest to me that it was an enthralling contest. People were positive and that has to be good for everyone."

Scorers London Irish: Tries Ansbro, Hape; Conversions Homer 2; Penalties Homer 5; Exeter: Try Arscott; Conversion Mieres; Penalties Mieres 5.

London Irish D Armitage; Ojo, Ansbro, Hape, Homer; Shingler, Allinson (Hodgson, 70); Dermody (Halavatau, 79), Paice (Buckland, 55), Ion (Corbisiero, 53); Evans, Garvey (Casey, 74); Danaher, Gibson, Thorpe (Gray, 64). Replacements not used Thompstone, Jarvis.

Exeter Arscott; Camacho, Sestaret, Dollman (Shoemark, 41), Jess; Mieres, Thomas (Barrett, 62); Tui (Muldowney, 42), Alcott (Clark, 49), Mitchell (Andress, 53); Hayes, Bentley (Sturgess, 43); Baxter, Scaysbrook, Phillips. Replacements not used Johnson, Steenson.

Referee D Richards (RFU).