Paddy Jackson's goalkicking meltdown - how 'the yips' cost London Irish a first trophy in 20 years

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Jackson's missed penalties led to Worcester winning their first major trophy - GETTY IMAGES
Jackson's missed penalties led to Worcester winning their first major trophy - GETTY IMAGES

Before Paddy Jackson stepped up to take a penalty shortly before half-time in Tuesday's Premiership Rugby Cup final, BT Sport flashed up a graphic showing Jackson's goalkicking success rate this season for London Irish - 97 out of 133 attempts kicks, so 73 per cent.

With nearly three out of every four attempts this season, Jackson had been on the money. Which is why his total meltdown off the tee that followed was so stunning, missing four consecutive attempts - including three in extra-time - as Worcester went on to win their first major trophy via tries scored (three to one) on the back of a good defensive display to shut Irish down, but also from clinging on by the fingernails during extra-time as their scrum went through the wringer and Jackson kept putting attempts wide.

"It's just pressure isn't it. He's a fantastic player, fantastic kicker and sometimes you get the yips," Worcester head coach Steve Diamond said of Jackson afterwards. "I'll have a quiet word with him because he's a top lad and a great player."

Irish signed a former Test No 10 in Jackson to help them move up the table but also to win trophies, and while Declan Kidney did his best post-match to deflect attention off Jackson's misses - "That's the roll of the dice, some days they go for you and some days they don't. Paddy has been fantastic for us all season. He'll rise again" - to be blunt, Jackson's yips cost London Irish a first trophy in 20 years.

Miss one, 74th minute

Worcester bled penalties throughout Tuesday's game, either from being turned over at the breakdown or at the scrum where even the introduction of British and Irish Lions prop Rory Sutherland couldn't slow down Irish's dominance.

Another ruck penalty against Worcester was followed by the Warriors being marched backwards for dissent by referee Wayne Barnes. Unbelievably, that happened four times on Tuesday night, with Worcester continually irritating Barnes and giving up 40 metres worth of field position overall as a result. At this point, the penalty count was 3-17 between the two sides, which left Diamond with his hands on his head in disbelief.

Steve Diamond of Worcester Warriors
Steve Diamond of Worcester Warriors

With Irish up 25-18 and seven minutes left, another Jackson penalty - having at this point kicked six in the match plus a conversion of Ben White's try for a perfect record - would have put Irish ahead by two scores and potentially out of sight. His kick started going right and continued heading in that direction.

That miss left the door open for Worcester to try and salvage the game. After three consecutive line-outs in the corner and three mauls failed to produce a score - "We haven't scored one in six months," Diamond joked afterwards about Worcester's lack of maul tries - the impressively physical Kyle Hatherell barged over with the clock showing 80+5 following a tap-and-go penalty and multiple phases. With Fin Smith's conversion, the game went to extra-time.

Miss two, 87th minute

Worcester's Smith was actually the first kicker to blink in extra-time after a penalty attempt faded to the left. Irish then flipped the field with another powerful scrum and had their choice of three possible kicks for Jackson after Worcester gave away three penalties in one attack - at the line-out for playing the man in the air, at the breakdown in the middle of the field and for Duhan van der Merwe's deliberate knock-on out by the touchline.

Worcester's penalty offences
Worcester's penalty offences

Naturally, Jackson wanted the attempt in the middle of the field. At this point he had kicked seven out of eight. The ball slid past the left post.

Miss three, 90th minute

Jackson might have been misfiring but Irish's scrum remained impressive, with Will Goodrick-Clarke - who has spent time training with England this year - powering through Murray McCullum to give Jackson an attempt inside 40 metres.

Incredibly, Jackson pushed a kick he would normally nail wide to the right. Pure pressure. Kidney, never ruffled by anything, can hardly seem to believe it while coming down the steps as the game went to half-time in extra-time.

Jackson remains rooted to the spot afterwards in disbelief.

Miss four, 94th minute

Into the second half of extra-time and by this point Worcester are defending for their lives, hoping for a breakaway or turnover. Another scrum deep in Worcester's half looks promising for Irish given their recent power in that area and, once again, they win another scrum penalty, the sixth conceded by Worcester at the scrum in the match.

This attempt out to the left was notably harder, but far from impossible for a kicker of Jackson's usual quality. But it started left and stayed there, a bad connection, the pressure getting to a player with 25 Test caps who was pivotal in Ireland's win over South Africa in Cape Town back in 2016. This was a horror effort.

London Irish never had another chance, but then again they had squandered so many who knows if Jackson would have gone close. With their attack shut down well by Worcester throughout the game, being outscored three tries to one ended up costing the Exiles as Worcester won the match due to scoring more tries with the score tied at 25-25 after 100 minutes.

A first major trophy for the Warriors, a significant step forward in the Steve Diamond era - it was night to remember for their impressive travelling support.

There is little time left for Jackson and Irish to regather themselves, with a huge trip to Bath coming up on Saturday if the club are to have a hope of qualifying for the Champions Cup next season.

"We have another massive game in five days and if you want to sit down and feel sorry for yourself, Bath will run all over us," Kidney admitted. But this loss will burn for an age. Jackson missing four penalties in a row to win a cup final was truly astonishing.

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