LONDON Irish captain Franco van der Merwe hailed the impact of Arno Botha after the South African flanker's man-of-the-match display inspired his side to a 22-9 Aviva Premiership victory against Worcester Warriors, writes Richard Ashton.

The January signing from Blue Bulls was at the heart of Irish's first league win since the opening day of the season – built around a Piet van Zyl try and 17 points from the boot of Greig Tonks – with the victory cutting the gap to second-bottom Worcester to 12 points and giving Nick Kennedy's men a glimmer of hope of survival.

Van der Merwe told the Chronicle: "He’s an unreal player. I played with him a couple of years ago and he’s always been a great player and a great guy.

"Ever since he got here he’s showed quality from day one, he carries brilliantly, his work-rate is awesome, he tackles.

"He’s strong and there were a couple of times where there were three or four defenders on him and he still got the go-forward. He was unreal."

Having ended their 14-match losing streak in the league on Sunday, van der Merwe added: "It’s been a tough season for us in the Premiership.

"We’ve had a couple of close games, but it’s nice to grind this one out for 80 minutes.

"I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons from the games where we’ve come really close to getting the wins. There was an amazing energy among the players.

"There was no tension among the players at the end, there was the belief we could do it."

He continued: "Worcester are a quality side, with quality international players which gives them a lot of confidence.

"It’s great to win and it will add on to our confidence. We showed character and what we learned in the season."

Meanwhile, Director of Rugby Kennedy, said: "We're very pleased to get the win.

"Last time we played Worcester we really let ourselves down, so it was about putting that right and showing people we are a good rugby team.

"The boys did that."