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Highlights & Report | Paddy Jacksons stars as London Irish Pip Wasps.

Irish surprise Wasps at the Ricoh

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Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images

London Irish opened their Gallagher Premiership account with a hard fought 26-29 win over Wasps at the Ricoh Arena this afternoon. 

Tries from Blair Cowan, Albert Tuisue and a long range effort from Ollie Hassell-Collins, combined with 14 points off the boot of Paddy Jackson, was enough to get the Exiles across the line. 

Irish started the contest well and after going behind to a Lima Sopoaga penalty striking back right away. Paddy Jackson fizzed a pass to Ollie Hassell-Collins who broke down the left-hand flank. The winger was tackled five metres short of the line but three phases later, Blair Cowan bundled over the line for the opening score of the game. 

Sopoaga and Jackson traded penalties before the hosts struck back with their first try of the afternoon. The Exiles were turned over after gathering the restart and Wasps capitalised with Zach Kibirige squeezing in at the corner. The try gave Wasps an 11-8 lead. 

Declan Kidney’s side continued to stay in the fight and, when Jackson kicked his second penalty goal of the afternoon from 45 metres the scores were level at 11-11 at the half hour mark. 

With 10 minutes of the half remaining there was still a few twists and turns to take place. London Irish crossed for their second try of the afternoon following a well worked line-out. Paddy Jackson kicked to the corner and the resulting catch and drive saw a rampaging Albert Tuisue thunder back towards the Wasps try line carrying three Wasps defenders over with him. 

The Exiles lead lasted three minutes, with Zach Kibirigie crossing for his second of the afternoon to lock the game up again, this time at 16-16. 

Irish went into the break with the lead, Jackson converting his third penalty after a great penalty turnover was won by Blair Cowan. 16-19 Irish led at the break.

Hassell-Collins got what his first half performance deserved, three minutes into the second half. The winger sprinted in from 55 metres out, collecting a wide passed from the impressive Cowan to score his side’s third try. Jackson converted from the sideline to give his side a 10-point lead at 16-26. 

A Jackson penalty five minutes later was converted as referee JP Doyle penalised Wasps for being offside in the midfield. Irish led 16-29 with just over 30 minutes remaining. 

The following exchanges saw Wasps dominate possession in the Irish 22, however it was meet with resolute Irish defence. A stand-out moment saw Tom Parton make an outstanding try saving tackle to prevent Kibirigie his hat-trick in the corner. 

The hosts were not to be denied and, after gutsy Irish defence, Dan Robson eventually spotted a gap to dot down and bring Wasps right back into it. Sopoaga’s conversion reduced the deficit to 23-29 in favour of London Irish. 

Jacob Umaga, on as a second half replacement, reduced the arrears further with a penalty goal and it was agonisingly close moving towards the end. 

Wasps were camped on the Exiles line with time up on the clock and, when the ball was fumbled by the hosts, Jackson touched down over the Exiles try line to secure a three point victory.

Match Highlights:

Wasps: Penalties: Sopoaga (9, 15) Umaga (73); Tries: Kibirigie (23, 36), Robson (66); Conversions: Sopoaga (67) London Irish: Tries: Cowan (10), Tuisue (33); Hassell-Collins (43); Penalties: Jackson (21, 26, 40, 48); Conversions: Jackson (43)

London Irish 

15. Tom Parton; 14. Ben Loader; 13. Curtis Rona; 12. Terrence Hepetema; 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins; 10. Paddy Jackson; 9. Scott Steele (rep: Ben Meehan, 40); 1. Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (rep: Harry Elrington, 52) 2. Saia Fainga’a (rep: Ross McMillan, 73); 3. Oliver Hoskins (rep: Lovejoy Chawatama, 73); 4. Franco van der Merwe © (rep: George Nott, 28); 5. Ruan Botha; 6. Matt Rogerson; 7. Blair Cowan; 8. Albert Tuisue

Replacements: 16. Ross McMillan; 17. Harry Elrington; 18. Lovejoy Chawatama; 19. George Nott; 20. Conor Gilsenan; 21. Ben Meehan; 22. Stephen Myler; 23. Matt Williams

Wasps

15. Marcus Watson; 14. Zach Kibirige; 13. Malakai Fekitoa; 12. Michael Le Bourgeois; 11. Josh Bassett; 10. Lima Sopoaga; 9. Dan Robson (C); 1. Zurabi Zhvania; 2. Tom Cruse; 3. Kieran Brookes; 4. James Gaskell; 5. Charlie Matthews; 6. Brad Shields; 7. Jack Willis; 8. Sione Vailanu

Replacements: 16. Gabriel Oghre; 17. Ben Harris; 18. Jeff Toomaga-Allen; 19. Thibaud Flament; 20. Nizaam Carr; 21. Sam Wolstenholme; 22. Jacob Umaga; 23. Juan de Jongh

Match Report from London Irish

Premiership

Premiership Rugby sign new deal with ITV

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(Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Premiership Rugby and ITV can today announce a game-changing new partnership to show, free-to-air, live Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches and a weekly highlights programme up until the end of the 2023-24 season.

This season four Gallagher Premiership Rugby matches will be shown on ITV, in addition to the Final which is on ITV4.

The coverage kicks off with Sale Sharks taking on Leicester Tigers on Sunday 30 January at 3pm, with the highlights show starting that evening. Furthermore, for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 seasons there will be seven live games on ITV, also including the Final.

  • All live matches will be simulcast on ITV and BT Sport, who will continue with their comprehensive coverage across the whole season, showing live matches every weekend.
  • The new partnership means that the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final, at Twickenham Stadium on 18 June, will be shown free-to-air for the first time in the competition’s history.
  • As part of the ITV partnership, there will be a weekly highlights show on ITV4 and repeated on ITV, presented by David Flatman and Topsy Ojo.

New Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Simon Massie-Taylor said: “The return of Gallagher Premiership Rugby to terrestrial TV is the perfect way for us to kick off 2022. It’s great news for the league, our clubs, the supporters and the profile of rugby in England.

“Our ambition is to grow the game and make Gallagher Premiership Rugby available to as many people as possible. BT Sport have done an amazing job in building the core Premiership Rugby TV audience and the ITV partnership allows us to expand our reach into the households of millions of other rugby fans. This season our average match audience on BT Sport has risen 30% year on year, which shows the potential.”

Niall Sloane, ITV Director of Sport, said: “We are delighted to announce this deal to bring regular free-to-air coverage of top-level club rugby to viewers across ITV’s platforms. It has been a pleasure working with BT Sport and our partners at Premiership Rugby in agreeing this deal and we look forward to showcasing the action and the stories from this elite league over the coming years.”

Massie-Taylor added: “We also want to make the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final 2022 the most-watched in our history and we believe we can achieve that with the match screened on both ITV4 and BT Sport. A phenomenal proposition for English club rugby’s showpiece occasion.”

“We are delighted to have five games, rising to seven next season, live on ITV but it is also crucial for us to have a weekly highlights programme that is accessible to millions of people. This will allow us to showcase the best of Gallagher Premiership Rugby to the widest possible audience. The highlights show gives a significant, regular presence with a broadcaster that will also show the Six Nations and Rugby World Cup 2023.

“With another highly competitive and exciting season, we have seen significant growth in our audiences on BT Sport this season and we see a big opportunity to bring this amazing rugby product to new fans, drive attendances and continue to grow the game.”

In the last round of Gallagher Premiership Rugby on BT Sport we saw:

  • Our highest ever Friday night average audience –252,000 for Bristol Bears v Sale Sharks (peak: 346,000)
  • Our highest ever regular season Saturday average audience on BT Sport – 300,000 for Harlequins v Exeter Chiefs (peak: 374,000)
  • Our second-highest audience ever for a three-game weekend (only eclipsed by Round 10 earlier this season).
  • After 38 matches on BT Sport so far this season the total peak cumulative audience is 9.6 million

The deal further enhances ITV’s portfolio of world-class sports rights, which includes exclusive live coverage of the England men’s and England women’s football team, the FA Cup, the Six Nations, the Rugby World Cup, horse racing and the Tour de France.

Source – Exeter Chiefs Rugby

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Northampton confirm coaching shake up

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(Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Dowson and Vesty to step up at Saints as Boyd moves to advisory role

Northampton Saints coaches Phil Dowson and Sam Vesty will move into senior management roles at the end of the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season following confirmation that Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd, will return to New Zealand and take up a new advisory role with the Club.

Dowson, who enjoyed a six-year playing career at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens prior to his transition into coaching, will be appointed Director of Rugby having coached Saints’ forwards since the 2018/19 season.

Meanwhile Vesty, who joined at the start of Boyd’s tenure to run Saints’ attack, will become the Club’s Head Coach.

The change forms part of a long-term succession plan set up when Boyd first arrived in Northampton, which aimed to develop a coaching team capable of assuming overall responsibility of the Club’s playing department.

In his new advisory role, Boyd will work remotely from New Zealand but will also visit Northampton during the season, aiming to provide strategic counsel to a coaching group which will be led by Dowson.

Ian Vass and Matt Ferguson will continue in their coaching roles, responsible for Saints’ defence and scrum respectively. Meanwhile former lock James Craig – who made 73 appearances in Black, Green and Gold prior to his retirement from playing in 2019 – also transitions from the Club’s Academy programme into a new first-team coaching position, initially focused on looking after Saints’ line-out.

“I have absolutely loved my time in Northampton, but it’s time to return home,” said Boyd.

“Since our arrival in 2018, Linda and I have fallen in love with the Club, the supporters and the county – Saints will always have a special place in our hearts.”

Chris Boyd

“But the pull of family is too great to stay in Northampton beyond the end of this season. And while the thought of being closer to our children and grandchildren is hugely exciting, it is with heavy hearts that we leave the Club.  

“Phil and Sam are very talented coaches and thoroughly deserve their forthcoming appointments. Over the last three years, they have proved they have what it takes to lead a successful rugby club at this level; I have no doubt they are ready to make the step up.

“They will be well supported by Ian, Matt and James, who all have bright futures ahead of them as coaches, and I will obviously still be contributing in my new role too.

“Although I’ll be sad to leave, my job this season is far from finished. I can promise our supporters that we are all more determined than ever to help the Club achieve its potential for the remainder of the season.”

Boyd joined Saints from Super Rugby’s Hurricanes ahead of the 2018/19 season. The Kiwi coach won the Premiership Rugby Cup – Northampton’s first silverware for five years – and finished fourth in the Gallagher Premiership in his first season, but Saints were defeated in their semi-final clash.

The men in Black, Green and Gold then reached the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup under Boyd the following season, going down to eventual champions Exeter Chiefs, before ending the 2020/21 Premiership campaign one place outside of the play-offs in fifth.

Boyd’s tenure at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens has also seen a new generation of Saints make the transition from the Club’s Academy to senior rugby. An impressive 25 Academy players have made their debuts under Boyd, with Northampton’s senior squad now boasting an average age of just 24 with 67% (39/58) of players home-grown.

Ten Academy graduates have received their first international call-ups with Boyd at the helm, with Lewis LudlamGeorge FurbankAlex Mitchell and Rory Hutchinson all making their debuts at Test level.

“We completely understand Chris’ reasons for deciding to go back to New Zealand – family must always come first,” said Mark Darbon, Chief Executive at Northampton Saints.

“However, we always knew this time would come and have planned and rehearsed accordingly. For instance, earlier this summer when Chris took an extended break in New Zealand, Phil and Sam took sole charge of pre-season.

“From the moment we first spoke to Chris about joining Northampton Saints, we worked with him to build a high-potential group of coaches. Over the past three years, that group have developed and grown, and we are excited for what they can achieve together.”

Mark Darbon, Northampton Saints Chief Executive

“While we will miss having Chris around the Gardens, we are very pleased that he will maintain a relationship with the Club in an advisory role, supporting the further development of our coaching group and helping us monitor the global player market.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Chris and Linda for everything they have done for Saints so far. It has been a pleasure working with Chris in his current role, and I have no doubt that the Club will continue to benefit from his contributions moving forwards.”

Saints Chairman John White added: “It’s been fantastic to work with Chris over the past four years; he transitions into his new role with the Club in great shape for the future, and I am very grateful for his efforts to date. We look forward to what will hopefully be a successful second half of this season, before Phil and Sam step into their new roles to take the Club forward.”

Phil Dowson made 186 appearances in Black, Green and Gold as a player in just six seasons at the Club, helping Saints claim the Premiership and European Challenge Cup titles in 2014, the Anglo-Welsh Cup in 2010, and reach the Heineken Champions Cup final in 2011. He returned to cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens as an assistant coach in 2017, before becoming forwards coach a year later upon Boyd’s arrival at the Club.

His 262 appearances in the Premiership is the third-highest tally in the competition’s history, and more than any active player, while Dowson was also capped seven times by England.

The 40-year-old said: “I am extremely proud and humbled to be stepping into the Director of Rugby role at Northampton Saints, a Club I have loved from the moment I first ran onto the pitch at Franklin’s Gardens 12 years ago.

“There is still plenty of growth left in this group of players and, alongside Sam and the entire coaching department, we will work tirelessly to deliver silverware for the Club and our supporters – whose passion and commitment to the team is second to none.

“On a personal note, I would like to thank Chris for everything he has done for me as a coach; I have learnt an enormous amount from him, and I will always be grateful for the opportunities he has given me. It is of course sad to see him return to New Zealand, but I’m delighted we will be able to continue to work together within this new coaching structure.”

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Dombrandt recommits to Quins

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Image Credit: Harlequins Rugby

Harlequins is thrilled to announce that England number eight and fan favourite Alex Dombrandt has signed a new long-term deal with the Club

First arriving at the Club from Cardiff Met University ahead of the 2018/19 season, Dombrandt has gone on to flourish as a senior player during his time in the Famous Quarters, regularly stepping in as the acting matchday captain and lifting the Gallagher Premiership trophy alongside Club Captain Stephan Lewies as Quins secured their second Premiership title last June.

Capped four times by England, the Croydon-born 24-year-old has taken the rugby world by storm since making his senior debut against Agen in the European Challenge Cup in 2018, making 87 appearances and racking up over 200 points to date.

Scoring an impressive 11 tries in his debut season in South West London, the marauding number eight instantly displayed a natural style of play that mirrored Quins’ renowned, attacking DNA.

Alex Dombrandt contract
Most well-known for intelligent running lines that often see the number eight pierce through the heart of opposition defences, Dombrandt has already scored ten tries in eleven appearances so far this season, standing out as one of the prime leaders of playing the Harlequins Way.

Commenting on his new deal, Dombrandt said: “I’m very excited to have re-signed. I love the Club, I love what we’re trying to do at the moment. I’m really excited for what’s to come in the future.

“Coming from university and into the professional environment I feel like I’ve grown on and off the pitch. I guess for me it’s just about being able to continue that growth, get better each day and go from there.

“This is a club that I’ve supported growing up. I used to come and watch Quins as a kid, so to stay at the club that is close to my heart, I’m very happy to do that.

“We’re trying to create something really special at this Club and obviously winning the Premiership last season was amazing, but we don’t want to sit on what we did last year. I think we’re in a really good spot at the moment.”

Commenting, Director of Rugby Performance Billy Millard said: “We’re delighted that Alex has re-signed with the Club. Dommers has grown and developed since joining us from Cardiff Met a few years ago. Almost as much as his rugby he’s developed really well as a leader, and gone on to earn his international recognition off the back of his form with us.

“We’re thrilled that Dommers has recommitted his future with Quins and look forward to seeing him continue to thrive in the Quarters.”

Next up at The Stoop – Castres Olympique. Get your tickets now!

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Source – Harlequins Rugby

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