LONDON IRISH 32
London Irish boss Toby Booth admits he is thrilled to have “a ticket in the lottery” after this season’s Guinness Premiership title race was guaranteed a first-time Twickenham finalist.
While arch rivals Leicester and Bath will slug it out in the opening semi-final at Walkers Stadium on May 9, Irish head to Harlequins with Premiership silverware just two wins away.
Since the Premiership switched to a play-off format to decide its champion club in 2003, only five clubs have reached the grand final - Leicester, Bath, Wasps, Gloucester and Sale Sharks.
But London is now certain of a May 16 Twickenham title contender other than Wasps after Irish secured third spot in the table, one place behind Quins.
Irish’s 32-15 victory over Worcester – secured by tries from wings Adam Thompstone and Sailosi Tagicakibau, back row forwards Declan Danaher, and Chris Hala’Ufia plus scrum half Paul Hodgson – emphatically removed fringe hopefuls Sale and Gloucester from the play-off equation.
Booth said: “We achieved our minimum standard this season by qualifying for the Heineken Cup.
“Our three goals were simple. They were to try and win the European Challenge Cup, be in the (Premiership) top six at Christmas and the top four at the end.
“So we have achieved two of those three objectives. What are you in this game for? You are in this game not to come second or third, you are in it to win something.
“There is a massive challenge before we get there, but we are still in with a chance, and that’s important.
“I am just pleased we have a ticket in the lottery at the moment.”
Worcester suffered from considerable injuries but gave a good account of themselves, particularly in the first half.
Hooker Chris Fortey and replacement wing George Crook scored their tries and director of rugby Mike Ruddock said: “At the end of the game the whole back line were either academy players or former academy players.
“There were a few veterans in the front row but it was great that the rest were all young bucks. It was great to see someone like George Crook scoring a try at the end. It was a great moment for him.
“Obviously we are disappointed to lose but London Irish are a very good team.
We let our guard down in the second half but, at 10-10 at half-time, I was pleased.”