London Irish is up and running in preparations for their 2022/23 campaign with a narrow 31-29 win over Jersey Reds at the Stade Santander International.
The Exiles took a seven-point advantage into half-time having registered scores through Caolan Englefield, Isaac Curtis-Harris, Matt Cornish and Ollie Hassell-Collins.
An assured opening forty for Declan Kidney’s men wasn’t necessarily demonstrated on the scoreboard, with late scores from Reds’ Ben Wollett and Alex McHenry a sign of things to come as the hosts grew confidently into the matchup.
Hugh O’Sullivan did however go over for Irish’s fifth early on in the second stanza, before a solid closing half from the Championship outfit saw a penalty try being awarded from a scrum and a deciding conversion from a Ryan Hutler try sailing wide with the clock in the red.
After a strong display at the scrum and maul, Irish broke ahead five minutes in after Reds were penalised for a deliberate knock-on.
Rory Jennings’ fine touch finder shifted the Exiles up the park and the ball was worked left to right before Matt Williams’ fine linebreak pulled his side through, scrum-half Caolan Englefield trailing closely in a two-on-one situation to be fed to score under the posts.
His half-back partner Jennings put away the extra duece, but a demonstration of fine running from Jersey saw Will Brown evade numerous tackles to press towards the whitewash only to later be met with eventual strong Irish resilience.
A first loose lineout from the hosts saw Matt Cornish field the ball and Irish were away, the ball then being recycled before Williams’ dangerous poke through went out of play in an inviting field position.
Reds relinquished possession once more from the set-piece, the ball falling to a well-positioned Cornish again as the Exiles worked through the phases for Isaac Curtis-Harris to enter the goal area for Irish’s second.
Jersey registered their first score of the affair after a smart breakaway just as Irish were pushing their opponents back, Ben Woollett the elected player to score in the corner with Pittman’s extras drifting astray.
Harvey Biljon’s side, despite not retaining a foothold from the restart, overturned play and won a scrum as Irish were knocking at the door immediately after resumption with the deficit kept at nine points.
A poor scrum from the Channel Islanders meant Irish then held the power, and after Jennings kicked for the corner, Matt Cornish capped off a brilliant opening forty with a try of his own from an aggressive Irish rolling maul.
Jersey couldn’t see Ollie Hassell-Collins for dust on half hour, the winger showing a clean pair of heels to dot down in the corner having received the ball just outside the Jersey 22 after a fine flowing sequence for those in green- Jennings then unable to convert the score.
The Academy product had the try line calling him again on his more native wide left channel, receiving a typically smart offload from Curtis Rona only for play to be called back for a stray Hassell-Collins boot in touch before he could make serious inroads.
Woollett brought his side up to double figures before the conclusion of the first forty, benefiting from an overload on the left side five metres out to score- and Jersey were not finished yet.
A tricky kick from hand meant a wild bounce of the ball left the heavily involved and inbound Woollett an advantage over Hassell-Collins, plucking the aerial ball to feed Alex McHenry who took it under the posts and bring his side to within seven at the break.
The defensive expectation continued to be focused on Irish with ill-discipline at firstly a scrum, and then a maul close to the try line in the second half but Lovejoy Chawatama’s graft meant Jersey couldn’t release and such pressure was alleviated.
Declan Kidney’s men were back in control after a clever snipe from Hugh O’Sullivan saw the Irishman through a gap, yet not necessarily through a clear passage to another five points, but swift jinking feet from the scrum-half evaded several red men and he touched down.
Compatriot Jackson added two more points to the Exiles’ haul on the day to reinstate the 14-point swing.
A sturdy repelling maul after a tricky scrum for the visitors sent Reds packing for the time being, however, Senior Academy player Michael Dykes’ was a casualty of earlier phases yet his absence afforded recent recruit Tom Hitchcock his first appearance in Irish green.
Jersey benefitted from much of the territorial advantage in the third quarter, with a rare Irish breakaway formulated in the hands of Benhard van Rensburg and Paddy Jackson only to be halted for the attacking side being off their feet.
Brendan Cope combined well with James Elliott for Jersey after a dangerous blindside attack, but Ben Loader done well to collect what would have been the decisive pass for an opposing try and touched down in his own goal area.
Persistent coercion at the resulting put-ins eventually worked as Irish were made to pay for consistent infringements, referee Anthony Woodthorpe awarding a penalty try in favour of Biljon’s team.
It was Championship side’s first points of the second period and they were then back to within a converted score of Irish, and following a breakdown penalty conceded, Reds revisited the Irish 22 after an impressive shunt from hand.
Several stoppages, including for a head injury replacement for Ben Loader, eventually subsided for quick play from Jersey but the ball was sent into touch.
With Jersey benefiting from an advantage, they opted for a scrum in hopes of replicating the same form earlier on in the half and Irish was dealt with a further blow after Ben Atkins’ offside transgression meant he was sent to the sidelines for the game’s remainder.
Another scrum, and another pair of resets were enforced by the official Woodthorpe as another penalty meant Chawatama partnered fellow forward Atkins in the sin bin.
The ball was worked wide by the Stade Santander side after frustration in getting the ball over close to the uprights, Russell Bennett assisting Ryan Hutler to set up a game-tying conversion for the former- which vitally drifted left for Irish to take honours in their maiden pre-season opener.
Score sequence (London Irish second): 0-5, 0-7, 0-12, 0-14, 5-14, 5-19, 5-24, 10-24, 15-24, 17-24, 17-29, 17-31, 24-31
Jersey Reds: Tries: Woollett (20) (39), McHenry (40), Penatly Try (73), Hutler (80); Conversions: Pittman (40).
London Irish: Tries: Englefield (4) Curtis-Harris (12) Cornish (26), Hassell-Collins (29) O’Sullivan (47); Conversions: Jennings (5) (12), Jackson (48).
15 Brendan Owen, 14 Ben Woollett, 13 Alex McHenry, 12 Dan Barnes (Holgate 39), 11 Will Brown (Hutler HIA), 10 Tom Pittman, 9 James Mitchell; 1 Sam Grahamslaw, 2 James Hadfield (Clarke 32), 3 Greg McGrath, 4 James Scott, 5 Macauley Cook (c), 6 Max Argyle, 7 Josh Gray, 8 Alun Lawrence.
16 Eoghan Clarke, Antonio ‘TJ’ Harris, 17 Huw Owen , 18 Steve Longwell, 3 Monty Weatherby, 19 James Dun, 20 Lewis Wynne.
21 James Elliott, 9 Jonny Law, 10 Brendan Cope, 22 Russell Bennett, 23 Ryan Hutler, 12 Jordan Holgate, 13 Charlie Powell, 14 Tomi Lewis, 15 Scott Van Breda.
London Irish first-half team:
15 James Stokes, 14 Michael Dykes, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Matt Williams, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Rory Jennings, 9 Caolan Englefield; 1 Facundo Gigena, 2 Matt Cornish, 3 Oliver Hoskins, 4 Ed Scragg, 5 Adam Coleman (c), 6 Ben Donnell, 7 Isaac Curtis-Harris, 8 Josh Basham.
London Irish second-half team:
15 Jacob Akins, 14 Ben Loader (Hassell-Collins 79), 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Benhard van Rensburg, 11 Michael Dykes (Hitchcock 55), 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Hugh O’Sullivan; 1 Tarek Haffar, 2 Isaac Miller, 3 Lovejoy Chawatama, 4 Josh Caulfield, 5 Rob Simmons (c), 6 Tom Pearson, 7 Josh Smart, 8 Ben Atkins.
16 Joe Vajner, 22 Tom Hitchcock
Referee: Mr Anthony Woodthorpe
Irish name side for west London derby
Declan Kidney has confirmed the squad for Sunday’s derby clash with Harlequins at the Gtech Community Stadium in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership (3pm kick-off).
Will Goodrick-Clarke, Agustin Creevy and Oliver Hoskins are in the front row, with Rob Simmons and Adam Coleman in the second row.
Matt Rogerson captains the side from the six jersey and is joined in the back row by Tom Pearson and Chandler Cunningham-South.
Ben White and Paddy Jackson link up to form the halfback duo, and Rory Jennings partners Benhard van Rensburg in the centres.
Michael Dykes, Lucio Cinti and James Stokes complete the line-up as the back three.
“Whenever these two clubs pitch up against one another, it always creates a good game of rugby,” said Declan Kidney, Director of Rugby.
“I know that we are expecting a good crowd at the Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday, and they will inevitably create a great atmosphere.
“We need to make sure that we put in a full 80-minute performance to give our supporters a reason to show their voice. Harlequins are a well-drilled side, and we know it will be a difficult challenge this weekend, but one we look forward to.”
15 James Stokes, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Michael Dykes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Oliver Hoskins, 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Chandler Cunningham-South.
16 Mike Willemse, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Henry Arundell.
Baxter issues Moon injury update
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter says he cannot give a timescale as to when prop Ben Moon will return to the Exeter Chiefs match-day squad.
The 33-year-old forward is currently Exeter’s longest-serving player, having made his debut in 2008 away to Sedgley Park, and is the last remaining member of their 2009-10 promotion squad.
The England international, however, has not featured for the Devon club since coming off the bench against Munster in last April’s Heineken Champions Cup clash at Sandy Park.
Asked by the media this week about Moon, the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby said: “I wouldn’t hold out hope that he’s going to be appearing soon. It’s been a challenge for Ben for a little period of time now, it’s not just been this season.
“He’s had periods in and out with it, it’s something that’s been affecting him for a little while and because of what it is we just have to be very careful with it.”
Moon has featured in all six of Exeter’s Premiership final appearances at Twickenham – and he also played in the 2020 European Champions Cup final win over Racing 92, and Exeter’s first major final when they beat Northampton Saints to win the 2014 LV Cup.
Moon won eight England caps in the 2018-19 season, but did not make the squad for that autumn’s World Cup in Japan.
“He’s still active around the club, he’s still here, he’s in training, he’s continuing very hard with his rehab and getting everything else he can right, but we’ve just got to be really careful around that neck.
“It’s probably one of those things where it’s getting to the stage where there’s not a lot more we can do. I can’t talk for Ben about his future, but you’re not going to see him in the immediate future on the pitch.”
TEAM NEWS – Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby
South African talisman Rob du Preez is set to make his 100th Sharks appearance whilst Alex Groves is in line for his Gallagher Premiership debut as Alex Sanderson names his side to face Bath Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow night. (Kick-off 7:45pm – Live on BT Sport)
Sanderson makes seven changes to the Sale starting line-up as his squad returns to Gallagher Premiership action following defeat at the hands of Ulster in the Champions Cup.
In the forwards, there is a complete change of the Sharks front-row as Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Nick Schonert all return to face Bath.
Cobus Wiese links back up with Josh Beaumont in the second row following a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle in the Sharks’ clash with Toulouse two weeks ago.
Jono Ross captains the side in the absence of Ben Curry, whilst Sam Dugdale steps in to replace the flanker after his England call up to Steve Borthwick’s England squad. Jean-Luc du Preez retains the number 8 shirt with twin-brother Dan remaining on the side lines due to an ongoing hand injury.
Gus Warr continues to provide a platform for success at scrum-half and links up with centurion Rob du Preez, who is named at fly-half.
The ever-present Sam James retains the thirteen shirt with Ryan Mills picked at inside centre in the absence of Manu Tuilagi. The former Wasps centre is one of two changes in the Sharks’ back line.
Sanderson’s second change in the backs comes in the form of Tom Roebuck, who replaces Arron Reed on the wing after an impressive cameo in the Champions Cup. Tom O’Flaherty is named on the other wing, with exciting academy graduate Joe Carpenter at full-back.
On the bench, Ewan Ashman, Ross Harrison and Joe Jones are named as front-row replacements, with Alex Groves and Rouban Birch providing further cover for the forwards. Raffi Quirke, Luke James and Arron Reed cover the backs.
Sale Sharks Starting XV:
15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Ryan Mills, 11. Tom O’Flaherty, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Simon McIntyre, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Josh Beaumont, 6. Jono Ross (c), 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez
16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Alex Groves, 20. Rouban Birch, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Luke James, 23. Arron Reed
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