London Irish 13-19 Toulon, Heineken Cup, December 12
Booth toasts fine-wine Wilkinson
ESPNscrum Staff
December 12, 2010
Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson fails to score a try against London Irish, London Irish v Toulon, Heineken Cup, Madejski Stadium, Reading, England, December 12, 2010
Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson almost scores a try during an impressive performance against London Irish © Getty Images

London Irish boss Toby Booth believes Jonny Wilkinson is getting better with age.

Wilkinson kicked four penalties and a conversion from Rudi Wulf's try as Toulon inflicted a 19-13 Heineken Cup defeat on the Exiles.

Toulon captain Joe Van Niekerk hailed Wilkinson as a "genius". And Booth dismissed those critics who claim Wilkinson's career is on the wane, now he is 31 and no longer England's first-choice fly-half.

"He didn't look on the decline to me," said Booth. "In a tight game they have a 100% kicker and we don't. That is the nature of it. He stopped George Stowers at full bore 10 metres from the line, and (he did the same to) Seilala Mapasua.

"He is probably like fine wine. He is actually getting better."

Van Niekerk, the former South Africa international, added: "The guy is a genius. He is constantly kicking three points and keeping the scoreboard ticking. What more do you want from a 10 who keeps it rolling, puts pressure on opposition and we can build from the back of it from there."

London Irish have now lost six games on the bounce and they must end that slump in the return fixture next weekend to keep their distant Heineken Cup hopes alive.

It will be a tall order. Toulon should have won by more at the Madejski Stadium and blew three golden try-scoring opportunities.

"We missed opportunities to get a try-bonus. We let them back in and made it a bit hard for ourselves in the end but a win is a win," said Van Niekerk.

Booth added the South African was the one player of "true quality" on show. Although disappointed by the defeat, Booth felt his side had improved from their defeat at Leicester last week.

"From where we have been there were a lot more positives in it. We have had to look at serious aspects of what we have been doing in the last couple of weeks," said Booth. "Next week We have got to go there to win. We know what we have to do.

"Hopefully we can get some good information out of today and be better prepared. London Irish don't like doing things the easy way. Leinster away last year no-one gave us a chance. This is a ready-made opportunity to go and upset the apple cart."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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