London Irish Director of Rugby Declan Kidney believes the quality throughout the squad was prevalent in Saturday’s Round 12 Gallagher Premiership win over Newcastle Falcons.
Being the Exiles first game at home in six weeks, Kidney’s men made it a homecoming to remember as his side registered five tries to win 39-17 at the Gtech Community Stadium.
Three of Irish’s scores were dotted down by replacements, and with the bench emptied in the second half, the boss duly credited the performances of his finishers on the day to come back from a four-point deficit.
Such was the challenge that Newcastle posed on the day, Falcons took the lead in the third quarter but the headstrong attitude of his Exiles on the day saw the home side to their second league win of the year.
“Being back at home is a big influence, we’ve been on the road for quite a few days, someone said it’s been 43 days since our last home game!
“It’s a difficult way to run a sporting business, but credit to everyone in the organisation to keep a safe track and it was great that we managed to get a result,” Kidney stated.
“The scoreline probably does Newcastle a little bit of an injustice but we stuck at it to the end and we’re delighted with the result, though we know there’s still room for improvement.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the boys, we had a few things thrown at us in terms of injury, but it shows the strength in depth of the squad and the boys came through.”
In Irish’s absence from their west London home, a winless run of form followed but the belief in the squad and their performances that picked up five losing bonus points this season shone through on the evening.
“Sport is a microcosm of life, there’s no point in getting down on yourselves and you have to work your way through it, and we done that.
“We were probably tentative in the first half; they had a couple of balls that rolled out to gave us field position back and it was tight for that first 50 minutes, but they came back strongly in those 10 or 15 minutes after half-time.
“It was at that stage we said, ‘let’s get going here’ and I thought we played really well from there on in.”
Out of possession, Irish shone in their defensive output with strong sets that repelled the visitors in key moments of the second half.
The Boys in Green maintained their standing as the league’s highest performing side in regards to tackling percentages, completing 140/155 (90.3%) attempts on the evening.
As well as their free-flowing scores, Kidney was keen to credit the squad’s mindset when faced with a Newcastle team looking for their fourth win of the Premiership season.
He explained: “It has always been that combination of both, Newcastle have been scoring for fun with some great tries so to hold them to two tries was a real pleasing aspect of the performance.
“Those sets were absolutely massive in the outcome of the game.
“The tries are good and we’ll never take them for granted because we do a lot of work on that, but there’s a lot of work that goes on beforehand too.
“Teams are inclined to tire themselves out, gaps will appear towards the end of the game and they’re renowned for taking those opportunities also.
“We had a couple of good defensive sets and managed to take our opportunities when they came our way.
“I could’ve said the same thing in the last few weeks whereby we didn’t take our opportunities and one or two defensive sets that let us down, but that’s the tightness in all the matches.”
The evening, a massive occasion for Irish in terms of the context of the season, also allowed for personal accolades.
Captain Matt Rogerson reached a century of appearances for London Irish, with front-row forward Oliver Hoskins also surpassing the 150 milestone.
“That’s what it means to Matt, Oliver Hoskins also had 150 appearances too so the attention must go to those boys as well.
“They’re two big milestones, and I’ve had the good fortune to work with those lads from the day I’ve arrived, and they are a credit to themselves, their families and their team.
“When you have boys like that in your team, you know that you’ll always be there or thereabouts.”
The Exiles now take a two-week break from domestic action, with a first Heineken Champions Cup berth in a decade beginning with the arrival of Montpellier Hérault this Friday.
The Top 14 champions bring with them a unique skillset, Kidney commented, that will be another exciting challenge for Irish.
“The importance of the last couple of weeks is that we have been learning to win, all credit to the players to do that.
“When you have that hunger the last few weeks can give you, that’s what can happen.
“What we need to do now is use that going forward, it’s a new competition this week with new challenges, a different type of opposition with a different way of playing.
“It’s a good place to be after Saturday, a special thanks must go out to the supporters after the last couple of weeks, they were great again and helped to bring us through in those defensive sets.
“It’s brilliant for us, it’s the first time we’ve been in the competition for a decade and we’re the opening match, so the games keep getting bigger and better.”
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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