Worcester Warriors ease their Aviva Premiership relegation fears by thrashing London Irish

Worcester Warriors 23 London Irish 8: The 11th-placed Warriors moved 10 points clear of rock-bottom Irish as wing Josh Adams scored two tries 

Andrew Baldock
Friday 22 December 2017 23:38
Josh Adams of Worcester Warriors celebrates with team mate Chris Pennell
Josh Adams of Worcester Warriors celebrates with team mate Chris Pennell

Worcester deepened the gloom for Aviva Premiership relegation favourites London Irish after claiming a crucial 23-8 victory at Sixways.

The 11th-placed Warriors moved 10 points clear of rock-bottom Irish as wing Josh Adams scored two tries and full-back Chris Pennell kicked both conversions and three penalties.

Alex Lewington's virtuoso try proved in vain for Irish, along with a Greig Tonks penalty, with the Exiles having claimed a solitary success in all competitions since early September.

And Independent Sport understands it meant a winning send-off for Worcester rugby director Gary Gold, who seems set to depart the West Midlands earlier than scheduled to begin his new role as United States head coach.

The South African had been due to leave at the end of this season, but it is thought an official club announcement will be made on Saturday, confirming his exit and assistant Alan Solomons taking initial charge. Worcester face Saracens next Saturday, followed by a home game against Bath.

In the meantime, Worcester can reflect on feeling a small sense of Premiership safety at the league's halfway point, with Irish seemingly destined for a quick Championship return.

Worcester showed two changes from the side beaten by Sale in league action three weeks ago as Gold handed starts to back-row pair David Denton and GJ van Velze.

Irish, though, suffered two late injury blows, with centre Fergus Mulchrone and prop Ben Franks both being ruled out and replaced by Tom Fowlie and Gordon Reid, respectively, while flanker Mike Coman took over from Mulchrone as skipper.

Worcester flew out of the blocks, taking a sixth-minute lead when centre Ryan Mills kicked cleverly into space behind Irish's defence, and Welshman Adams gathered at pace before diving over for a try that Pennell converted.

The Warriors then lost injured prop Nick Schonert - he only returned to action last month following a lengthy absence because of ankle trouble - as Irish began to make some headway through their forwards, yet a long-range Pennell penalty took Worcester 10 points clear.

And it was not until eight minutes before the interval that Irish established a threatening attacking position, and after initially sacrificing a kickable penalty, Irish quickly gained another chance that Tonks accepted.

Irish had suddenly found a spark, and scrum-half Ben Meehan's sharp break put Worcester on the back foot before the Exiles struck through a brilliant solo try.

There appeared to be nothing on for Lewington when he received the ball 30 metres out with countless Worcester defenders in front of him, but he set off on an arcing run before gathering his kick ahead and capitalising on slipshod defensive work by Adams.

Tonks sent the conversion wide, only for Adams to quickly make amends for his blunder as he displayed superb balanced running to claim a second touchdown on the stroke of half-time, with Pennell's conversion securing a 17-8 interval advantage.

Pennell extended Worcester's lead by kicking two penalties in six minutes, and Irish had it all to do, with the Warriors beginning to create defensive gaps and Irish pressing a self-destruct button through poor discipline.

And there was no way back for the visitors as Worcester comfortably consolidated their healthy lead by retaining control and closing out the contest, despite having replacement hooker Joe Taufete'e sin-binned.

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