LONDON Irish’s hopes of avoiding Aviva Premiership relegation suffered a severe setback as they lost 23-8 at second-bottom Worcester Warriors.

It was a 10th successive league defeat for Nick Kennedy’s men, who now trail their rivals by 10 points after the first half of the campaign.

Exiles came under early pressure at Sixways, and it was no more than the home team deserved when wing Josh Adams collected a cross-field kick before going over for the opening score. Chris Pennell added the extras to put Warriors 7-0 in front.

In a game being played at a fast pace, Irish lock Teofilo Paulo had to be temporarily replaced by Sebastian De Chaves after requiring a head injury assessment in the 17th minute, and shortly after they fell further behind when Pennell landed a penalty awarded for a Mike Coman high tackle.

Yet the visitors hit back and Saia Fangia’a found Joe Cokanasiga, only for the wing to spill the ball with the try-line beckoning.

However, Irish did cut the gap when Greig Tonks landed a penalty earned by a powerful forwards’ shove, and a moment of magic from Alex Lewington brought them right back into the game on 38 minutes.

The speedster collected the ball before chipping ahead and collecting his kick to race away for a brilliant score.

Yet, Irish then suffered a body blow in the final phase of the first half, Adams benefitting from some slick handling to cross before Pennel’s conversion made it 17-8.

An early flashpoint occurred early in the second period when referee Wayne Barnes issued a warning to Worcester’s Donncha O’Callaghan and Fangia’a following a shoving match prompted by the former pulling the ex-Australian hooker’s dreadlocks.

A quick-fire brace of penalties from Pennell put Worcester in complete control, and that proved to be the final scores of the game as both side’s defences held firm – the only real incident of note coming when the hosts’ hooker Joe Taufete’e was sin-binned at the death.