Mapletoft's pitiless boot helps Irish grind to win

London Irish 25 - Worcester 15
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The Independent Online

Yesterday was a day when there were more spills than skills and when the weather and the treacherous going underfoot ambushed all intent of open exciting rugby.

Yesterday was a day when there were more spills than skills and when the weather and the treacherous going underfoot ambushed all intent of open exciting rugby.

So London Irish could be grateful for the superlative contribution of their inside-centre Mark Mapletoft, who had a flawless match with the boot, landing six penalties out of six and converting his team's only try.

"Conditions were not ideal for running rugby," he said later, "but kicking here is easy. The grass is short, there is very little wind to worry about and I have been kicking well in the last couple of weeks." Mapletoft's boot also helped set up the Exiles' try, as he managed to get a toe to a loose ball and send it over the Worcester line, where Scott Staniforth won the chase to touch down.

Unsurprisingly, Worcester's try also arose from a mistake, when Mike Catt knocked on. Tommy Hayes, the Worcester fly-half, snapped it up and the ball travelled to the captain, Pat Sanderson, who sprawled over in the corner.

Ultimately it came down to defence, and here London Irish were extremely good. And what with the home side's superiority at the line-out and the set scrum, there was precious little possession for Worcester to use.

"Without the platform at the set-piece [we] grew frustrated and that frustration eventually turned into indiscipline and we gave away penalties," said Andy Keast, their director of rugby. "That has to go down as our worst performance this season. We did not work hard enough. When you don't work hard against teams like Irish you do not deserve anything, and that is what we got out of this match - nothing."

There were a couple of mystifying moments amid the mess, the mud and the mistakes, most notably when the Irish right wing Delon Armitage was taken out while in the air, collecting a high ball. The offender, Hayes, who had a generally poor match, was not even spoken to by Chris White, the official instead deciding to upbraid some forwards for a relatively minor tussle. The home crowd was incensed. Armitage had been lying winded for long minutes before struggling to his feet.

The Irish fans were further angered in the ninth minute of injury time when White awarded a penalty try to Worcester, presumably for persistent offside by the home team, who had been defending desperately.

The penalty try made no difference to the outcome of the match or indeed to the distribution of the points - the Exiles got four and Worcester, who were not close enough for a bonus, none. But it earned White prolonged booing as he left the pitch having finally put the match out of its misery.

London Irish: Try Staniforth; Conversion Mapletoft; Penalties Mapletoft 6. Worcester: Tries Sanderson, Penalty try; Conversion Gollings; Penalty Hayes.

London Irish: M Horak; D Armitage, S Staniforth, M Mapletoft, J Bishop; M Catt, P Hodgson (D Edwards, 56); N Hatley (capt), R Russell, R Hardwick (D Wheatley, 80), N Kennedy (R Strudwick, 56), R Casey, P Gustard, P Murphy, D Danaher.

Worcester: T Delport (D O'Leary, 18-31); G Pieters, D Rasmussen, G Trueman (O'Leary, 31-40), B Hinshelwood; T Hayes (O'Leary, 70), M Powell; T Windo, A van Niekirk (B Daly, 40-68), C Horsman (S Sparks, 40), T Collier (M Gabey, 57), P Murphy, L Greeff, D Hickey, P Sanderson (capt).

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).

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