A desperate afternoon for destitute Worcester was every bit as emphatic as the scoreline suggests. It is tempting to say it will be a long season ahead for the crisis hit club but given the uncertainty over their future, they cannot even be afforded that phrase with confidence.
How they could do with someone of the rare abilities of Henry Arundell, scorer of two London Irish tries from the bench here – everything he touches turns to gold. There was no little endeavour, a predictably fast start but once Irish weathered the early storm they found holes in the defence all too easy to exploit and helped themselves to seven tries.
Worcester can take heart that they did not capitulate late on given their lack of preparation: their only pre-season fixture was cancelled. But here was a reminder of the reality they face four months after clinching the Premiership Rugby Cup at the same ground.
Their plight was underlined by the fact that they were forced to wear last season’s kit – this season’s remains with the suppliers – and they needed special dispensation to play without numbers on the back of their jerseys so they can be more easily reused. They needed a club sponsor to provide the van to transport their equipment – fresh investment cannot come soon enough.
Steve Diamond said the next few days could bring good news on that front but was wary of getting hopes up at this stage. “Somebody said that in the next 72 hours there may be some news of a potential investor,” he said. “It’s a boost but we don’t want a false dawn.
I have to appear bullish because if I don’t and [the players] are not getting paid they capitulate and that’s what we don’t want them to do.
“It’s a work in progress but better that than no work. We’ve played our first game and getting them out today was the most important thing because if we didn’t fulfil our fixture today we were out of it.”
Worcester, to their credit, began with a ferocious intensity – all that tension washing off the players’ shoulders as soon as they crossed the whitewash. Ollie Lawrence, fit again after a torrid time of it last season, was to the fore, busting the Irish line, but for all their territory and possession, they never really threatened the try-line.
Like an overeager boxer short on fitness, there was the sense too that they punched themselves out in the opening exchanges. Accordingly, Irish proceeded to score three first-half tries. Ben Donnell got the first after a sideways run from the excellent Ollie Hassell-Collins caused havoc in the Worcester defence.
Ben White followed in similar circumstances on the right wing after Curtis Rona had put Hassell-Collins into space before the left winger got in on the act himself. Irish had their fourth after the restart when Arundell met Hassell-Collins’s chip on the half-volley with his first touch, barely a minute after coming on, and raced clear to gather and splash over.
Will Joseph added the fifth after pouncing on the loose ball before Curtis Langdon scored from close range to get the visitors on the board. The London Irish replacement Agustin Creevy barrelled over to cap an impressive cameo before Jamie Shillcock ran in Worcester’s second.
The final word went to Arundell, however, and he is likely to have many more this season. “I’d be inhuman if I didn’t [get excited by Arundell],” said London Irish’s head coach, Les Kiss. “We saw that unbelievable situation in the Test match in Australia. He creates moments. He’s got something about him for sure, but there’s a real true humility to him as well.”