Worcester collapsed to a heavy defeat in their Gallagher Premiership opener to confirm that a long season awaits on and off the field as London Irish strolled to a 45-14 victory.
Facing the prospect of administration due to debts exceeding £25million, the Warriors found no refuge on the pitch at Brentford Community Stadium as they leaked seven tries.
Their players have still not been paid fully for August and, with £6million in tax due, the club face a winding-up court hearing on October 6 while behind the scenes new owners are sought urgently.
FT | London Irish 45-14 Worcester Warriors pic.twitter.com/dBRNvn1amh
— Worcester Warriors (@WorcsWarriors) September 10, 2022
Evidence of the financial emergency was seen in last season’s kit still being used, with the jerseys displaying no player names in order to make them more swappable given the limited numbers available.
Robbed of any pre-season matches by the crisis, Worcester struggled once their promising start ran out of steam, most notably in their breakdown discipline as they lost the first-half penalty count 8-0.
Irish took their chances beautifully but were rarely under pressure and typically Henry Arundell got on the score sheet just a minute after stepping off the bench, his first involvement hacking the ball ahead and the second picking it up to touch down.
Following a moving minute’s silence in memory of the Queen, who died on Thursday, and a rendition of ‘God Save the King’, Worcester attempted to take a month of frustration out on Irish.
For a period it worked as they set off like a freight train to force the Exiles into a lengthy period of defence, centre Ollie Lawrence the greatest threat with two strong carries before Jamie Shillcock pounced on a error and escaped down the right touchline.
Another Lawrence run caused problems but, when he spilt the ball forward, Irish counter attacked and several phases later Ollie Hassell-Collins ran across field to initiate a try finished by Ben Donnell.
The Exiles led despite being under frequent siege, but they were aided by a favourable penalty count that saw their opponents infringe five times in the opening quarter alone.
With Worcester busy shooting themselves in the foot, Irish’s backs produced a precise and high-speed sequence of play to add a second try through Ben White.
Shaky Warriors defence invited Haskell-Collins over for the third that was delivered inside the half-hour mark and, when Arundell worked his magic eight minutes after the interval, the bonus point was secure.
Will Joseph capitalised on an error to dart over from close range, but the one-way traffic was finally broken in the 65th minute when replacement hooker Curtis Langdon finished a series of forward drives.
Agustin Creevy restored the order of play, but, although Worcester appeared to have had the last word through Shillcock, Arundell added his second in injury time.