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Exiles keep survival hopes alive with win over Worcester

Piet Van Zyl scores only try in an uneventful encounter.

London Irish kept alive their slim hopes of avoiding Aviva Premiership relegation with a crucial 22-9 win over Worcester at the Madejski Stadium.

It was a must-win game for Irish, only their second in 16 Premiership outings, and it reduced the gap between them and 11th-placed Worcester to 12 points with six league fixtures remaining.

It was an uninspiring game, befitting the bottom two clubs, with Irish scrum-half Piet Van Zyl scoring the only try.

Greig Tonks converted it and added five penalties with Chris Pennell replying with three penalties for Worcester.

It was a very disappointing performance from the Warriors, who displayed none of the form that they had displayed in beating Exeter and Gloucester in their last two Premiership matches, and they never threatened the try-line.

Centre Jackson Willison and hooker Jack Singleton were late withdrawals for Worcester through injury but Warriors overcame these setbacks to take a third-minute lead.

Irish lock Teofilo Paulo was yellow-carded for a dangerous challenge for Pennell to knock over the resulting penalty.

However the hosts soon drew level when enterprising play from Alex Lewington and Van Zyl forced Warriors into infringing and Tonks was on target with his kick.

Paulo returned from the sin-bin with no damage done to the scoreboard and in time to see his side take the lead when Tonks fired over his second penalty.

As a result, Irish led 6-3 at the end of a featureless first quarter in which neither side played with any continuity.

After 27 minutes the game sprung to life when Irish scored the only try. A poor clearance from Warriors centre Ryan Mills went straight to James Marshall, who fed Van Zyl for the scrum-half to race away before chipping ahead and collecting a fortuitous bounce to score.

Tonks converted before Pennell succeeded with his second penalty, as Worcester deservedly trailed 13-6 at the interval.

Warriors’ influential scrum-half Francois Hougaard and skipper Donncha O’Callaghan both failed to return for the restart with Jonny Arr and Anton Bresler replacing them.

Irish began the second half strongly to dominate territory with drives from outstanding flanker Arno Botha and David Paice keeping their opponents firmly on the back foot.

Tonks missed a chance to extend the lead by missing with a wide-angled penalty but minutes later he succeeded with a kick from straight in front.

Pennell kept Warriors in contention with his third penalty but the visitors were still seven points adrift going into the final quarter and two further penalties from Tonks deprived them of a losing bonus point.

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