Newcastle v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, February 18
Booth backs under-fire Armitage
February 18, 2012
Newcastle's Ryan Shortland is congratulated after scoring, Newcastle v London Irish, Aviva Premiership, Kingston Park, Newcastle, February 18, 2012
Newcastle's Ryan Shortland is congratulated after scoring © Getty Images

London Irish boss Toby Booth backed Delon Armitage after the fullback's latest brush with controversy in his side's loss to Newcastle.

Armitage was felled by a punch from Falcons lock Adriaan Fondse on 60 minutes at Kingston Park - which led to the South African being sent off by referee JP Doyle after the intervention of his touch judge.

The England international was left on the ground holding his head but was roundly booed by the crowd, who clearly felt he had made more of the incident then he needed to.

The Falcons fans were further incensed when Armitage charged into a tackle later in the game and appeared to short-arm Newcastle centre James Fitzpatrick.

There was no penalty, but many of the crowd disagreed and there is the possibility Armitage could be cited if the independent match commissioner feels there is a case to answer. A poor day for the fullback was completed when his pass was picked off by Ryan Shortland for the decisive try in a 19-10 loss.

"I've seen it and I don't think the referee had any choice. It was a punch," Booth said. "You have to give credit to the guy who made the interception - it was three on one and he's picked it up off his toes. If he hadn't done that, we would have scored.

"It was a messy game and the Kingston Park factor was very much in evidence. Both sides put in a massive amount of effort but you've just seen why six clubs were trying to sign Jimmy Gopperth. You don't want to be making mistakes like we did at the start with a horrible swirling wind at your back."

Newcastle's director of rugby, Gary Gold, added: "I haven't seen the incident, but I'm sure the referee is not going to make a red card decision very easily and I'm very disappointed.

"Our backs are against the wall and that is one of things you can control and I will be very disappointed if we have let ourselves down. You just can't afford to do that and we're lucky we didn't pay a higher price for that sending off.

"The way the other 14 guys played for the last 15-20 minutes was a real sign of character, but we really should not be putting ourselves in a position like that. It's a happy and relieved changing room we made heavy weather of that. Any win at this stage is an important win and I'm very proud of the character and resilience shown."

Gold - formerly of the Springbok coaching team - also reserved praise for Shortland, who was carrying a head knock at the time of his try.

"London Irish are one of the best attacking teams in the Premiership and we stuck to our guns and they went through several phases three or four times and we kept them out," he said.

"We were lucky when Ryan scored. I'd just had a call from the medical team that Ryan was really struggling with a bang on the head and he wasn't 100% sure where he was, so if he wants to play concussed like that all the time I'll be happy to give him a bang on the head before the game."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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