LONDON Irish gave their faint Aviva Premiership survival hopes a boost by recording just a second win of the season as they overcame Worcester Warriors 22-9 at Madejski Stadium, writes Richard Ashton.

The result cuts the gap at the foot of the table to 12 points with six games remaining, but with man-of-the-match Arno Botha leading the charge, confidence of a miraculous escape will have been bolstered.

Things had begun disastrously for Exiles as they lost Teofilo Paulo to the sin-bin in just the second minute, the second row penalised for taking a player out off the ball. Chris Pennell compounded Irish’s woes by knocking over a straight-forward penalty.

However, the hosts hit back strongly, and a clever chip ahead by Alex Lewington – who earlier led the side out on his 100th appearance for the club – was collected by scrum half Piet van Zyl, only for a fine cover tackle to stop the Springbok short of the line. Irish went through the phases and hammered away at the line, and eventually Warriors were penalised for not rolling away at the ruck. Greig Tonks kicked the penalty to level matters.

Irish moved in front not long after, another Tonks penalty finding the target, but the opening 20 minutes in this battle of the bottom two proved a surprisingly tepid event.

Much of the opening half was littered with aimless kicking, and it was one such effort which led to the only try of the match.

Ryan Mills kicked the ball down the throat of James Marshall, and the Kiwi full back’s inside ball allowed van Zyl to scorch down the right-hand flank. He then chipped ahead and collected his own kick, diving over to send the Irish faithful wild. Tonks converted and Exiles led 13-3.

The home side shot themselves in the foot before the break, however, Conor Gilsenan giving away a needless penalty for offside which Pennell landed to cut the gap to seven points at half time.

Irish had a chance to extend their lead early in the second half, only for Tonks to push his effort wide, but the Scottish international made amends shortly after to put his side 16-6 to the good.

Worcester hit back, though, and with Exiles penalised at the scrum, Pennell landed his third kick to put his side back within losing bonus-point range.

With few clear-cut opportunities, Tonks next missed a shot at goal, but with the game entering the final five minutes, the fly half was successful with his next effort to give his side breathing space.

Worcester went short with the restart, but after Exiles turned the ball over, a stunning break from Joe Cokanasiga saw them charge into their opponents’ 22.

Warriors were penalised for not rolling away at the breakdown, and another Tonks penalty took his points tally to 17 and secured a vital Irish victory.

London Irish travel to Wasps next Sunday.