Worcester got their Premiership season off to a winning start with a narrow 11-10 victory over London Irish in an error-ridden game at Sixways. Tom Howe scored the decisive try for the hosts midway through the second half, with Billy Searle adding the rest of Worcester’s points from two penalties.

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Irish replacement Nick Phipps had gone over for the visitors moments before Howe’s try, with Paddy Jackson converting having already slotted over an early penalty, but it was not enough to deny the Warriors.

There was a minute silence before the game for Worcester president Cecil Duckworth, whose death at the age of 83 was announced earlier in the week. Duckworth was a major benefactor to the Warriors over a number of years and was awarded the CBE for services to charity in 2013.

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Worcester took a sixth-minute lead when Searle kicked a straightforward penalty after the visitors’ pack had been penalised at a scrum, but that was soon nullified by one from Jackson from a similar range. The two penalties were the only scores of a disjointed first quarter in which the Warriors came closest to scoring a try after strong bursts from Ethan Waller and Ted Hill had put the Irish defence on the back foot.

Irish were under constant pressure in the scrums, conceding a number of penalties which allowed their opponents to dictate play. The home side should have re-taken the lead when a well-timed pass from Niall Annett sent Nick David racing away down the left flank. The wing then fed Searle but the outside half dithered and a great opportunity was lost.

As a result of their scrummaging problems, the visitors replaced tight-head prop Sekope Kepu with Ollie Hoskins but the next set-piece saw the Irish pack again shunted backwards to earn a warning from the referee, with loosehead prop Harry Elrington then withdrawn with an injury.

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In the second quarter Worcester spurned a host of scoring chances through poor handling and when Searle missed a penalty just before half-time it summed up their profligacy as the scores remained level at 3-3 at the interval.

The first scrum of the second half saw Irish again penalised to give the home side a platform in their 22, from where Searle kicked an easy goal. However, the visitors became more competitive in the third quarter which finished scoreless.

Irish brought on former Warrior Agustin Creevy and flanker Blair Cowan to add some power to their pack and with almost their foray into the Worcester 22, they scored when Phipps darted over from close range after Ben Loader was dragged down narrowly short.

Jackson converted from wide out before Worcester regained the lead when a period of pressure ended with Howe forcing his way over. Searle was off-target with the conversion, as was Jackson with a 50-metre penalty, as the Warriors held on to scrape victory in a game they should have won comfortably.

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