London Irish took another major step towards Aviva Premiership survival with a comfortable victory over a disappointing Worcester at the Madejski Stadium.
With this win Irish have at present a 10-point cushion over bottom club London Welsh and a five-point lead over 11th-placed Sale, with Irish still having to play those two clubs at home in their remaining four fixtures. The game was a disappointing one for the annual St Patrick's celebration which saw an attendance of 19,523.
The driving line-out of the Irish was the dominant factor with all their tries coming from this facet of the game. Worcester seemed incapable of dealing with it to ensure their first away win in the Premiership was never a possibility. The Warriors were outbattled in the loose and were very limited in attack with lively wing David Lemi never receiving a pass.
Worcester included former Irish star Paul Hodgson at scrum-half in place of Jonny Arr, with John Andress at prop instead of Euan Murray.Jonathan Joseph returned from injury to take up a place on the bench for Irish.
Play was of little interest until Irish took a 10th-minute lead. The home side won a line-out on the opposition 22 and had little difficulty in driving over the Worcester line with Matt Garvey the try scorer. Tom Homer's conversion kick sailed wide.
The Warriors had the better of the next ten undistinguished minutes before the hosts went further ahead with Worcester having no answer to Irish's driving maul. Another 25-metre drive was illegally hauled down by the Warriors but moments later Irish were over again, this time from close range, with Halani Aulika the beneficiary.
Worcester had their first chance of points with Andy Goode making no mistake with his penalty but this was soon nullified with a first success from Homer for the Irish. Neither side were prepared to use their hands to attack, both preferring to pepper the opposition with perennial up and unders with both the half-backs choosing the aerial route on almost every occasion.
Irish extended their lead with a simple penalty from Homer but when George Skivington was offside at a ruck, Goode was on target for the Warriors to leave them 16-6 adrift at the interval.
Within three minutes of the restart, Irish scored a crucial try. They again softened up the Warriors' defence with another line-out drive and from the resulting scrum Chris Hala'ufia powered over for the try which Homer converted. Moments later Irish produced the best movement of the match with splendid inter-passing sending Ian Humphreys deep into the visitors 22 - but a careless pass prevented the fourth try for London Irish.
Homer's third penalty gave the hosts a match winning 26-6 advantage with half an hour remaining, before the game returned to mediocrity with Worcester never threatening to claw back into the game. Worcester dominated the last half hour in terms of territory and possession but lacked any creativity to break down a stubborn Irish defence as the game petered away into a tame finish.
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith hailed the influence of his pack following the game. He said: "I'm delighted with the performance today. For our forwards, it was their best of the season, especially coming after being routed up at Northampton. We've got four games remaining now and we've not been looking over our shoulder all season. We are a real handful at home and if we can win those last four games there's no reason why we can't finish as high as eighth."
Worcester director of rugby Richard Hill was less than impressed with the effort of his side. "On a cold and wet day like this you need your forwards to take control," he said. "They didn't and we had no answers to their driving maul with their half-backs kicking far more accurately than ours."
He added: "We had numerous opportunities five metres from their try-line but failed to take any of them. They had probably fewer chances than us but were clinical in taking them....I'm sorry for our supporters but we've tried almost everything and are finding it a difficult problem to crack."