Booth eyes Anglo-Welsh Cup run
October 23, 2011
London Irish flanker Jamie Gibson claims a lineout during the game in Reading © Getty Images
London Irish head coach Toby Booth revealed after his side's 39-23 victory over Newcastle on Sunday that he is taking the Anglo-Welsh Cup far more seriously than usual this season.
Booth admitted that he has always ranked the tournament well below the Aviva Premiership and the Heineken Cup in his list of priorities but that he is attaching more importance to the much-maligned competition this term because of the slightly less congested nature of the calendar.
"I've been guilty of not competing fully in the LV= Cup in the past because within a salary-cap driven structure it is very difficult to give 100 percent on three fronts," he said after the Exiles' win at the Madjeski Stadium.
"But this season, the World Cup provides clubs with an autumn free of international games so you can rely on having your squad intact and really give lads their heads.
"For example, we saw Anthony Watson on the wing chatting at one point with his class-mates in the stand. That was a reminder to me that he is only 17, at school and with so much to learn. He is also a tremendous and exciting talent.
"But the difference out there was quality. Newcastle came to play rugby and gave a very spirited display. But we had that quality edge on them.
"When you can bring on the likes of Daniel Bowden and Faan Rautenbach, when you can start with Delon Armitage and hand a debut to Shontayne Hape, you expect to win - and we did."
Jamie Helleur scored the opening try of the game for the Falcons and although the Exiles replied through wing Adam Thompstone, the visitors found themselves 18-16 up early in the second half courtesy of a touchdown from Greg Goosen and some sound goal-kicking from Jeremy Manning.
However, man of the match Armitage crossed towards the end of the third quarter to swing the game back in the home side's favour before Hape created a try for replacement Dan Bowden. Irish then nicked a bonus point when Thompstone dotted again just before the death.
Unsurprisingly, Booth was thrilled with the contributions made by his returning England backs Armitage and Hape.
"He [Hape] really wanted to play given the lad's had one game in about eight weeks," Booth said. "We gave him a week after the World Cup to spend with family in New Zealand and he returned the favour with a debut performance that made the statement to the supporters that he wanted to make as a new player for us.
"Delon was face down in the dressing room afterwards, drained. But I am delighted with him. He was a shining light for England down there and I've received great feedback on his attitude and determination to be in the starting XV from the England coaches."
However, Newcastle head coach Alan Tait felt that the introduction of Bowden 14 minutes into the second half had been decisive, with the versatile New Zealander slotting a penalty, a drop goal and a conversion as well as diving over for a try after being thrown into the fray.
"When the game was in the balance, and we were leading 18-16, they could bring on a world class player in Bowden and he changed the face of the match," the Falcons chief said.
"I have to be pleased with the performance and attitude of what was a very young side. Many lads showed their mettle out there and we continue to play open rugby and score tries.
"But until we really sort out our lineout, we will not enjoy the possession that a top-notch lineout delivers. There are areas for us to work on there, but we do have a few keys players coming back in time for our return to Aviva Premiership action next week and the arrival of Northampton."
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