Exiles' injury toll mounts as high price is paid for superb victory

London Irish 23 Munster 17

Come the back end of January, the 21,000 punters who parted with their hard-earned cash to witness this emerald-tinged affirmation of all that is best in Heineken Cup rugby – and left the Madejski Stadium declaring they would have paid double for the privilege – will know which, if any, of the key moments unlocked the door to the quarter-finals.

The goal-line stand by London Irish early in the final quarter, perhaps? If Delon Armitage and Alex Corbisiero never tackle anyone again, the Richter scale hits they inflicted on Tony Buckley and Denis Leamy will guarantee them a place in the great defensive formation in the sky. Or maybe it will be the Ronan O'Gara-Sam Tuitupou intervention in the seventh minute of injury time that rescued a losing bonus point for the men of Limerick.

Toby Booth, the Exiles' head coach, would much prefer it to be the first, but in truth, he has better things to think about right now.

The first, and most pressing, is a chronic shortage of options on the open-side flank that threatens to undo London Irish's good work at the weekend. Declan Danaher's knee injury casts serious doubt on his participation against Ospreys in Swansea on Friday night, and with three of his fellow back-rowers – Steffon Armitage, Richard Thorpe and James Gibson – also on the sick list, there is a high risk that the 2008 semi-finalists will be forced to field a makeshift, wholly unbalanced combination against Jerry Collins, Marty Holah and company.

Secondly, Booth will spend a few quiet moments trying to understand the decision of the England selectors to relegate Paul Hodgson, the London Irish scrum-half, to the second-string Saxons squad. Hodgson delivered one of his "heartbeat performances" on Saturday night, prodding and poking, coaxing and cajoling, instigating and inventing. If his scrum-half skills and game-management instincts were bang on the money, his courage was every bit as inspiring.

Tuitupou, no one's idea of pacifist, dumped the poor little blighter on his head at one point – an assault that succeeded only in ramping up the half-back even more. Towards the end, Hodgson wrestled the hulking James Coughlan into touch and earned himself a smack on the bonce from Donncha O'Callaghan, who had been waiting all evening to catch up with him. His response? From a prone position, he reached out a defiant hand and tripped the Lions lock from behind. O'Callaghan looked like Bambi. Hodgson looked like a hero.

"Not good enough for England, then." So said Booth with a look of utter bemusement on his face. The coach is no fool: he understands that the half-backs in the elite party for the forthcoming internationals, Ben Youngs and Danny Care, are faster and more dynamic runners than his player ever was, or will ever be. But if the Test side had anything resembling a half-decent attacking game in midfield, Hodgson's craftsmanship might be accommodated. Of course, this is not the case. More's the pity.

In the immediate aftermath of the game, much was made of the significance of Tuitupou's extra-late score, the result of a dainty running kick from O'Gara that was not far short of sublime. Yet if it was true that the Exiles could have done without it, Booth flatly refused to allow one isolated incidence of gatecrashing to spoil his party.

"I'm more interested in championing the things my side achieved," he said. "When you see Delon stop a man the size of Buckley, who must have had a 50kg advantage, that close to the line, you know people care about what they do. That's important to us. It's also important that we play with our heads as well as our hearts, as we did out there. Sometimes, a coach gets one without the other."

Primarily, London Irish accumulated their points through the boot of the excellent Ryan Lamb, although Topsy Ojo's interception try a few seconds after the interval and Armitage's 55-metre master-blaster penalty deep in the final quarter were equally valuable.

It is far too early to say how this European campaign will unfold for the Exiles, but if they can paper over the cracks in the back-row department and keep Hodgson on the boil, they will at least be competitive at the Liberty Stadium in a few days' time.

London Irish: Try Ojo; Penalties Lamb 4, Armitage; Drop goal Lamb. Munster: Try Tuitupou; Penalties O'Gara 4.

London Irish D Armitage; T Ojo, E Seveali'i (D Bowden, 75), S Mapusua, S Tagicakibau (J Joseph, 75); R Lamb, P Hodgson; C Dermody (capt), J Buckland (D Paice, 57), F Rautenbach (A Corbisiero, 57), N Kennedy, R Casey (M Garvey, 75), K Roche, D Danaher (C Hala'ufia, 52), G Stowers.

Munster J Murphy; D Howlett, K Earls (P Warwick, 75), S Tuitupou, D Hurley; R O'Gara, P Stringer (D Williams, 79); W Du Preez (M Horan, 69), D Varley (M Sherry 85), A Buckley (J Hayes, 69), D O'Callaghan, D Ryan (M O'Driscoll, 59), D Leamy (capt), N Ronan (D

Wallace, 35), J Coughlan.

Referee C Berdos (France).

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
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

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links