Must Try Harder
November 9 2017
London Irish welcomed Bath to the Madejski Stadium for their opening game in this year's Anglo Welsh Cup. Hopes were high, Nick Kennedy had named a pretty strong team and Bath are having a bit of an injury crisis. Could this be Irish's day? I've told you about hope before...
To be completely honeset a first glance at the Baths side gave me hope but looking a little deeper it was fair to say they have a lot of strength in-depth Of course a lot of that depth used to play for London Irish and so we welcomed a return of Darren Allinson, Matt Garvey and Max Lahiff.
The traditional start for Irish was completed when the home defence was found absent with Ben Tapuai taking a ball behind a ruck only to jog unopposed over the goal-line. A couple of Irish "defenders" did flap at him but I called a try earlier in the season "the softest try in professional rugby" - this was softer.
To give Irish their dues that was almost the last defensive lapse of the afternoon, certainly there were no repeats of such try-gifting. Indeed, the Exiles actually took the game on at this point and constantly threatened the Bath line. The visitors managed to avoid tries for a while, occasionally infringing with Irish eschewing the kickable points in favour of an attempt to get parity.
The feature of the boys-in-green on Saturday, though, was one of innaccuracy and simple errors. The ball was dropped, passes went amiss and the ball was coughed-up in contact. The result was a lack of precision and an inability to make the try stick. Bath cleared their lines and Irish re-formed another attack.
The pressure did tell eventually with a lovely off-load from David Paice being gathered behind Max Northcote-Green's back the ex-Bath flanker dotting-down for a well-earned score. Sadly Theo Brophy-Clews couldn't manage parity with the conversion.
Bath put some moves of their own together but the reasserted Irish defence held firm. The visitors had to take the points from a penalty eventually with Freddie Burns showing imperious form with the boot.
The defence holding firm gave Irish more opportunities to attack and soon the Exiles were threatening the Bath goal-line again. Max Northcote-Green took his second try gratefully after James Marshall scythed through Bath tackles to off-load to him.
The teams didn't go into the break even however since Burns converted a further penalty at the end of the half leaving the score 10 -13. Given the poor start from Irish it felt like we'd dragged ourselves back into the game, Bath were far from done, though.
Hopes were renewed early into the second half with Irish skipper David Paice bashing his way over the line. Theo's first-half struggles had obviously been discussed at half-time and Brendan McKibbin stepped-up to slot the conversion from near the touch-line.
The visitors stepped-up again to redress the new Irish lead with an audacious piece of skill from Levi Davis taking a cross-field kick above Alex Lewington to score a fine try. The conversion was a given with Burns on fine form.
The lead flip-flopped again with Alex Lewington claiming a try bonus-point from a long Brophy-Clews pass. Lewington had to really battle and step a few defenders to make the score and he seemed incredibly determined not to be stopped. McKibbin had left the field wth a worrying knock a few minutes earlier so kicking duties went on to James Marshall but sadly he missed the conversion.
Bath weren't taking the loss of lead lightly, though and the redoubled their efforts. The Irish defence held firm but indiscipline allowed Burns to knock a further two penalties over to re-take and extend their lead.
The final 10 minutes were pretty-much all Irish with the home-side repeating their late first-half hammering of the Bath line. Sadlt they also repeated the mistakes and failed to make an impact. For the final few minutes the forwards practiced their pick-and-go from repeated rucks making steady yardage and being held just short of the goal by worthy Bath defence. Eventually and inevitably the forwards allowed the backs to have a go and a match-defining drop of the ball by Irish allowed Bath to clear to touch and take the spoils.
And that was it. It was, as has been pointed-out on the message-board, incredibly frustrating. This was mainly because, without the massive lapse in defence, if our kicker(s) had been close to as accurate as Burns or with one or two fewer dropped passes, we'd have won that game hands-down. Coming away it was difficut to believe that, given our possession, we didn't. It's easy to dismiss the Anglo Welsh Cup - nobody really cares about it although it's worth pointing out this was a fairly entertaining game, unlike the usual AW affair. It's also a bit of a fillip that we scored the four try BP and got a losing BP but that somehow feels hollow.
As with many games this season you come away feeling that at least the team can learn its lessons from this and come back better, the worry is that there are many of these so far - we don't seem to be learning. We need to. Soon.pqs: qs:
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