Powell's magic act baffles dozy Irish

Worcester 16 - London Irish 6
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The Independent Online

They may have reduced it to a muddy patch, but Worcester made it very clear to the rest of the Premiership that Sixways is very much their own patch as they muscled their way to victory over a bewildered London Irish.

It was Worcester's fourth Premiership win and lifts them off the bottom of the table, although Harlequins could leapfrog them this afternoon depending on how they go against Wasps.

Worcester delivered an at times heroic performance. Their defence was outstanding, as was Matt Powell, their inventive and assured scrum-half. His control was near-flawless, whether putting clever grub-kicks through, launching wicked box-kicks, getting his backs moving or whipping his forwards to even greater efforts in the drive.

Powell's speed of foot and thought presented Worcester with their first try. The scrum-half charged down Michael Horak's clearance kick and followed it up for the score. The second try came after one of the many periods of intense pressure exerted by the home side, and after much pressing and probing their French centre Thomas Lombard broke through.

That was about the time the Exiles woke up to the fact that they were in trouble. There was still a quarter of the match left in which to make amends. That they didn't could be put down to the late withdrawals of Mike Catt and Paul Sackey; the conditions, which were atrocious; and the Worcester defence.

Unfortunately these factors were compounded by the Exiles' own shoddy handling. The errors were too numerous to count. Irish also lacked organisation and cold-blooded finishing, especially when Worcester were reduced to 14 men in the dying minutes of the first half after their lock Tim Collier was sent to the sin-bin for taking out an airborne Phil Murphy at a line-out.

Irish piled on the pressure, enough to squeeze a couple of penalties out of Worcester mistakes, but the Warriors survived, escaping a penalty try which might have been justified when they pulled down mauls, on each occasion with their line vulnerable to the Irish pack.

It was little wonder that the Irish head coach, Gary Gold, said afterwards: "That was unacceptable. We have two weeks before our next match and they are going to be a couple of very tough and very solemn weeks." It will be a little different at Worcester.

Worcester: T Delport; D O'Leary, D Rasmussen, T Lombard, G Pieters; J Brown, M Powell; T Windo (L Fortey, 63), A van Niekirk (C Hall, 69), C Horsman, T Collier, C Gillies, D Hickey, B MacLeod-Henderson (S Vaili, 69), P Sanderson (capt).

London Irish: M Horak (G Appleford, 53); D Armitage, S Staniforth (N Kennedy, 64), N Mordt, J Bishop; M Mapletoft (B Everitt, 45), P Hodgson (D Edwards, 45); D Wheatley, R Russell (J van der Walt, 63), P Durant (A Halsey, 64), R Strudwick, R Casey, D Danaher, P Murphy (R Reid, 53), K Dawson.

Referee: S Lander (Cheshire).