|Worcester: (3) 11|
|Tries: Howe Pens: Searle 2|
|London Irish (3) 10|
|Tries: Phipps Cons: Jackson Pens: Jackson|
Tom Howe’s try helped Worcester Warriors edge past London Irish with both sides looking rusty on their return to Premiership action.
The hosts dominated the first half but failed to capitalise on several good openings, going in 3-3 at the break.
Irish improved and took the lead when scrum-half Nick Phipps scored the opening try after 60 minutes.
But Howe’s try five minutes later proved decisive as Irish’s Paddy Jackson missed a late penalty.
A minute’s silence was held before the game in memory of former Warriors owner Cecil Duckworth OBE, who helped transform Worcester into a Premiership club.
Irish struggled in the scrum early on and Harry Elrington’s infringement allowed Billy Searle to put Warriors in front after five minutes.
Jackson hit back with a penalty of his own seven minutes later to level things up but Worcester were soon back on the front foot.
Howe was cut down short of the line before Searle was guilty of holding onto the ball when a pass would have seen a team mate go under the posts.
Searle then missed a penalty from in front of the posts as the teams went in level at half-time, but the former Wasps outside-half reset his kicking radar to restore Worcester’s lead after 44 minutes.
Warriors, though, were soon to pay for their profligacy with Australian scrum-half Phipps dotting down after Ben Loader was stopped short of the line and Jackson’s conversion put the Exiles ahead for the first time on the hour mark.
The try stirred the hosts into action and a deft offload from George Merrick found full-back Melani Nanai, who put Howe over in the corner.
Searle’s missed conversion left the door open for Irish to snatch an unlikely win but Jackson’s late penalty fell short.
Worcester director of rugby Alan Solomons told BBC Hereford and Worcester:
“I thought we really played well in that first half and got scant reward for our effort. I made it that we had eight opportunities to put points on the board and we just didn’t do that.
“We spoke at half-time about keeping the pressure on them and then blow me if they don’t go and get the first try. What was key for me was the mental resilience of the team and those last 20 minutes we really held it together.
“The last 20 minutes of any game which is tight, becomes a bit of an arm wrestle and we came out on top. As I’ve said time and time again, there are no easy games in the Premiership. We have to be more clinical in closing out our opportunities.”
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney:
“We made a rod to beat ourselves with in the first half as we had to defend so much. But, the goal line defence held up really well.
“We need to learn to hold on to the ball for longer phases. In the second half, we probably coughed-up possession a few too many times.
“When you score a try, you can’t afford to then concede one a few minutes later and those are things which are well within our control to fix.
“It was a game that got away from us in many ways and we need to get better at a few aspects of our play and we’ll work hard to ensure we do that next Sunday.”