That's not Reading!
April 24 2017
As the season closes it's been a bit of a hard time for London Irish. Ospreys had already taken away the chance of a perfect season in the British and Irish Cup and then Jersey used their home advantage to deservedly take the Exiles unbeaten Championship record. Were the wheels coming off at the time when Irish were looking to accelerate back into the Premiership?
Many apologies for the recent lack of admin on The Craic, it's been a busy time at Griff Towers so I've used the meagre time I've had to keep-up with the message-board traffic. Sadly that means I've not hassled people to write stories and so we've missed-out on a few match reports - thanks to, I presume, Dave at SportNetwork for not knocking us offline.
Having lost at St Peter it was with some worry that the standard Exiles mix of youth and experience took on the Jersey team at the MadStad in the British and Irish Cup. With the visitors naming a virtually unchanged side we knew the lads would have their work cut out if Irish wanted to make the final.
Early-on it seemed that Irish would overturn the loss away with only some glaring handling-errors stopping early gains. An early Jersey penalty opened the score but the home-side eventually managed a try in the corner for Tom Parton - looking very handy. It was a short-lived lead with the Jersey team spurred-on and creating more openings. An equalizer took the visitors into half-time 7 - 10 leaders.
They came out after the break in similar mood and put another try on the board to stretch the lead, although the missed conversion could've left a gap open. Irish started to create some chances and scored a second try mid-way through the half to give the faithful hope and pulled ahead with a Brophy-Clews penalty.
Sadly this seemed to spur the visitors on and in a gutsy final ten minutes they scored first a penalty to re-take the lead and almost immediately after that a late try to take Jersey into the final 17 - 25 (in the final Jersey lost to a very handy Munster 'A' side by a single point).
Was the train off the rails? Were Irish coming apart at the end of the season when we really were hoping to be hitting our straps? I think we were all, for the first time in the season, concerned.
In the final home game of the regular season Irish managed an outrageous display - calming fears of a collapse by putting 12 tries past a Rotherham Titans side that, to be fair, had little to play for. The result was 82 - 3, your reporter wasn't there - I was recovering from Saturday in the legendary South Stand at the Hong Kong Sevens.
For the final game of the regular season Irish travelled to Doncaster to play one of the other play-off hopefuls. This would be the test of whether the team would struggle in the final two/four games of the play-offs. A win would be a marker that Jersey was a blip, possibly caused by having already secured the match-choice in the play-offs. A loss would be devastating.
I'll admit, I wasn't at this one either (I was still on holiday) so I can't really report anything except the score. Doncaster, it seems, put in a good defensive shift and held the Exiles to only three tries before managing a last-gasp consolation of their own but Irish came away happy with a 5 - 22 win.
Results elsewhere showed that Jersey had failed in their late run and missed-out on a play-off spot which means the first semi-final is a repeat visit to Castle Park to re-play Doncaster - making the final regular game even more important in the mental war that is professional sport.
On balance the run-in could've gone a lot worse - further losses after the Jersey brace could've been very damaging to confidence and the big win against Roth and a solid away win at our first opponent's ground should be a boost.
The push for a vital Aviva Premiership return is still on and it gets very serious now. The team know they have the talent to do it but they'll be mightily glad of all the support we can give them.
COME ON YOU IRISH!pqs: qs:
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Thanks to Griff and his co-eds - your hard work on here is very much appreciated...
What he said!
Sponsoring Matt Kouris for the 2016/17 season.
Usually found tweeting gibberish (via @MattMerritt)
Cheers Griff :-)
Will be going to Donny home leg, will do a report if you like
Did this ever happen? I've not seen anything... sorry to be a pain.
I watched the away leg on telly so I might at some point get round to writing it up... I look forward to yours for tomorrow!