Director of rugby Dean Ryan admits Worcester Warriors lacked a spark at the Madejski Stadium after London Irish picked up their third win of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season.
Worcester remain tenth in the league, but the Exiles are now just a point behind – alongside Newcastle – thanks to a fine display at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.
Ciaran Hearn and Andy Fenby scored the tries for Irish and, allied to Shane Geraghty’s ten points from the tee, it was enough to secure an important 20-13 victory.
Worcester kept them honest through second-half Bryce Heem and Val Rapava Ruskin efforts but Ryan believes his side deservedly lost – and have been sucked into a battle at the bottom.
“Halfway through the season and we’re in a fight against three others, I don’t think we can hide and hope we might get away from them,” said Ryan. “This was the opportunity to put some space between us and we missed it so we’re in the fight and, if I’m honest, the other two sides have probably got the momentum at the moment.
“I thought the first 40 minutes was terrible. I can’t quite put my finger on it. We just had a revolving door for 40 minutes which unsettled everybody and we froze a little bit.
“I’m making things up to try and find the word for what it looked like because I just don’t recognise it. It’s unacceptable in a game of this magnitude to not have the energy that we’ve had.”
Irish have now won two of their last three Aviva Premiership Rugby games and can do the double over Northampton Saints next week – having picked up their first league win of the season against them on Boxing Day.
And assistant coach Clark Laidlaw said: “I never thought it was going to be easy. In a tight game like that, I was never sure a team was going to pull away.
“Apart from last weekend, when we were really disappointed with the way we played, the last six weeks have been pretty encouraging.
“I think we always had opportunities in the first half (for the bonus point), but I’d have probably just taken the win at the start of the day. I think we left a few out there, but we might need those tries another day so we’ll save them up.
“We play Northampton next week and then we’ve got a six-day turnaround, so that’s pretty tough on the body. We’ve got 15 guys on the injury list, so the same guys are going to have to suit up next week.”
London Irish: Fenby; Ojo, Hearn, Mulchrone, Tikoirotuma (Williams 70); Geraghty, Steele (Allinson 71); Court (Smallbone 61), Paice, ‘Aulika (Halavatau 59), Symons, Lloyd (Nagle 67), Sinclair (Ellis 64), Narraway, McCusker
Not used: Guest, Brophy Clews
Worcester Warriors: Pennell; Heem, Olivier, Mills, Vuna; Lamb (Symons 40), Baldwin (Mulchrone 55); Leleimalefaga (Rapava Ruskin 47), Annett (Bregvadze 52), Schonert (Johnston 67), O’Callaghan, Cavubati, Dowson, Cox (Mama 59), van Velze
Not used: Sanderson, Hammond
Tries: Hearn, Fenby
Conversions: Geraghty 2
Penalties: Geraghty 2
Tries: Heem, Rapava Ruskin
Referee: Wayne Barnes