LONDON Irish recorded a 20-13 win against Worcester Warriors at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday to move off the foot of the Aviva Premiership table.
The fixture was the 250th for Topsy Ojo in an Exiles jersey and his team-mates ensured he could celebrate the landmark in style. The afternoon might have been better for the former England winger had the TMO not disallowed what would have been a great try for obstruction.
Ciaran Hearn and Andrew Fenby were the Irish try scorers, with Shane Geraghty adding 10 points off the boot. Bryce Heem and Val Rapava Ruskin scored tries for the Warriors to go with a sole penalty from Ryan Mills.
The hosts made a bright start to the game, dominating the opening 10 minutes. On two occasions they were close to claiming the first try of the game but were denied by a resolute Warriors defence.
Ciaran Hearn broke the deadlock after 18 minutes of play with a piece of individual brilliance. Worcester full back Chris Pennell raced out of his own 22 before losing the ball on the Irish 10 metre line.
Irish’s Canadian centre gathered the loose ball, chipped over the first line of defence and regathered to score under the posts. Shane Geraghty duly added the conversion to make it 7-0.
The visitors reduced the arrears to four points with a long-range Ryan Mills penalty for an Irish infringement at the breakdown.
Irish continued to attack with pace and power and on the half-hour mark may of had a third score, only for Bryce Heem to disrupt proceedings with a trip, for which he was sent to the sin bin.
Geraghty kicked his first penalty of the game to make it 10-3 with seven minutes of the half remaining. Irish dominated until the break but were unable to get reward. They led 10-3 at half time.
Within five minutes of the re-start Topsy Ojo went over for what would have been his 72nd try on his 250th appearance. However, the try was chalked off for an earlier obstruction and it remained 10-3.
Heem cut the deficit to just two points with the Warriors’ first try of the afternoon after multiphase play created the overlap and allowed the New Zealander to score in the corner.
Moments later, and with Donnacha O’Callaghan in the sin bin, the Exiles were in the ascendancy. The visitors withstood immense pressure for five minutes but were eventually undone by an Andrew Fenby try. The full back received an inside ball off Shane Geraghty and ran in under the posts. Geraghty’s conversion made it 17-8.
Replacement loose head prop Val Rapava Ruskin got the visitors within touching distance of Irish once again with a bulldozing run from five metres out to set up a tense final 10 minutes.
Shane Geraghty eased the nerves with his second penalty of the game to take his side seven points clear at 20-13 with six minutes left. Luke Narraway and then Gerard Ellis turned over ball to relieve pressure and allow Irish to close out the game.
The win puts the Exiles in 11th place on the table, equal on points with Newcastle and one point adrift of Worcester. The Warriors losing bonus points keeps them above Tom Coventry’s side.
Next week Irish travel to Franklins Gardens to take on Northampton Saints.
GAME AT A GLANCE
Score sequence (London Irish first): 7-0, 7-3, 10-3, 10-8, 17-8, 17-13, 20-13
Scorers: London Irish: Tries: Hearn (18), Fenby (55); Conversions: Geraghty (2, 73); penalties: Geraghty (33); Worcester: Penalties: Mills (23); Tries: Heem (47); Rapava Ruskin (69)
London Irish: 15. Andrew Fenby; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Ciaran Hearn; 12. Fergus Mulchrone; 11. Aseli Tikoirotuma (rep: Johnny Williams, 69); 10. Shane Geraghty; 9. Scott Steele (rep: Darren Allinson, 71); 1. Tom Court (rep: Tom Smallbone, 62); 2. David Paice (rep: Gerard Ellis, 76); 3. Halani Aulika (rep: Leo Halavatau, 60); 4. Matt Symons; 5. Will Lloyd (rep: Ian Nagle, 68); 6. Jebb Sinclair (rep: Gerard Ellis, 66, rep: Tom Guest, 73); 7.Luke Narraway; 8. Rob McCusker
Replacements: 16. Gerard Ellis; 17. Tom Smallbone; 18. Leo Halavatau; 19. Ian Nagle; 20. Tom Guest; 21. Darren Allinson; 22. Johnny Williams; 23. Theo Brophy-Clews
Worcester Warriors: 15. Chris Pennell; 14. Bryce Heem; 13. Wynand Olivier; 12. Ryan Mills;11. Cooper Vuna;10. Ryan Lamb (rep: Andy Symons, 40); 9. Luke Baldwin (rep: Charlie Mulchrone, 56); 1. Na’ama Leleimalefaga (rep: Val Rapava Ruskin, 48); 2. Niall Annett (rep: Jaba Bregvadze, 54); 3. Nick Schonert, rep: James Johnston, 68); 4. Donncha O’Callaghan; 5. Tevita Cavubati; 6. Phil Dowson; 7. Matt Cox (rep: Marco Mama, 60); 8. GJ van Velze (C)
Replacements:16. Jaba Bregvadze; 17. Val Rapava Ruskin; 18. James Johnston; 19. Dan Sanderson; 20. Marco Mama; 21. Charlie Mulchrone; 22. Dean Hammond; 23. Andy Symons
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Attendance: 5, 837