Harlequins 0-17 London Irish, Guinness Premiership Semi-Final
Booth hails influence of veteran Catt
May 9, 2009
London Irish skipper Bob Casey celebrates victory over Harlequins, Harlequins v London Irish, Guinness Premiership Semi-Final, The Stoop, Twickenham, England, May 9, 2009
Exiles skipper Bob Casey celebrates his side's first ever Premiership Final appearance © Getty Images

Toby Booth hopes Mike Catt will continue playing after watching him inspire London Irish to a 17-0 Guinness Premiership play-off victory over Harlequins.

Former England fly-half Catt topped a match-winning display with a second-half try to help the Exiles into Saturday's Twickenham final against Leicester. The 37-year-old player-coach has yet to decide what role he will fill at the Madejski Stadium next season but Booth will never ask him to retire.

"Mike Catt was absolutely outstanding. Today was one of those games that Mike thrives on," said the Exiles director of rugby. "The irony is he spent two days in bed with flu this week. We still started him because we know how important he is to controlling things.

"Catty has a fantastic appetite - people dream about being able to do what he does at 37. He's a credit to himself, his family and London Irish. I'll never ask him to stop playing.

"It's Mike's decision whether he will play next season. If push comes to shove I'm sure he'll put his hand up because that's the sort of guy he is. Mike loves the situation he's in and he'll make the decision over the course of the summer."

Catt and substitute James Hudson crossed while Delon Armitage booted seven points as Irish produced a dominant second half to crush their London rivals at Twickenham Stoop.

"We've built on strong foundations that (predecessor) Brian Smith and I laid and have made steady progress," said Booth. "This has been one of those purple patch days. I thought we were resilient in the first 20 minutes and we showed some true quality.

"They didn't capitalise with heir kicks and neither did we. Then the game began to swung in our favour. We made life difficult for ourselves but stood tall and matched their physicality."

One blot on the evening's work was the knee ligament injury sustained by England second row Nick Kennedy, who is now a major doubt for the final. "Nick looks like he has a ligament strain but we don't know the degree of that," he said. "We're disappointed for Nick because obviously he's been pushing his international claims and we hope he won't miss out on the final."

Quins director of rugby Dean Richards refused to criticise his side, who finished above Irish in the Premiership table in second place. "We had opportunities to get points on the board but didn't take them," he said. "We found ourselves 10 points down and started chasing the game which we didn't do very well at.

"It might have been a totally different game had we taken those points at the start. That's life. We should have been more clinical but at the same time it's been a fantastic season and the boys have done extremely well. I like to think this is just the beginning. We'll learn from today and will be a better side next year."

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