None the wiser
April 3 2018
The "St Patrick's Day" match is always an occasion, with plenty of rugby first-timers joining the crowd to watch a game and then enjoy the party. The Gloucester following always seem to embrace the party too and that makes for fun. With the recent changes to the London Irish coaching set-up there was more than a little speculation about what would happen. Would the new guys make the needed difference?I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd numbers when I arrived. With the club's announcement that they intended imminently to return to West London it has felt a lot like the local Reading support has disengaged and that support is really needed for the St Pat's party. A crowd of over 15,000 watched a fascinating, exciting and reasonably entertaining game - whether any of them will stick with the club in coming years remains to be seen. Who knows? Maybe they were all from West London.
The game began with what I think most people will acknowledge as the best half an hour of rugby London Irish have played in a few years. With movement off-the-ball, runners hitting the gain-line at-pace and some snappy passing the home side showed a new pep in attack that seemed to catch the visitors off-guard.
The first score was a James Marshall penalty after a few minutes of conserted Irish pressure. The first try was a fairytale return from injury for Josh McNally blasting through a splintered cherry & white defence. Marshall added the extras and a second try soon followed with a fantastic jinking run from the breakdown by Piet van Zyl. Marshall helped the cause again.
Twenty minutes played and 17 - 0 up, Irish were looking very, very sharp. The pressure continued until a goal-line knock-on seemed to knock the confidence of the home side. Gloucester seemed to step-up their efforts too and scored three tries in quick successsion with James Hanson starting the wave with Tom Marshall and Lewis Ludlow following soon after. The Irish defence seemed to have simply stopped. Gloucester men ran towards the defensive line and it seemed to simply evaporate leaving them massive gaps to run-through.
Half-time came and from 17 - 0 up Irish were 17 - 19 down.
The second half started in a similar vein with the visitors getting the lion's share of the possession. A fourth try was given and then removed with the Gloucester dummy-runner seen to have dragged David Paice out of position to open a gap for the attackers. Another go at a second try was chalked-off for a forward pass - it was a pity Sir wasn't so charitable in the first-hlaf when most of the East stand called the Gloucester wing in-touch for their first...
The pressure continued and told eventually with another quick brace of tries from the visitors. Mark Atkinson boshed his way through the Irish trademark powder-puff tackles and Tom Marshall pinned his ears back and skinned the wing. Billy Burns converted both and all present though that was that. Irish 17 - 33 Gloucester.
Of course if you've learned nothing about Irish it's that the norm is not their oeuvre. When most of the crowd had the home-side written-off and, as is still most likely, relegated the men-in-green found their form again. The visiting team's pressure evaporated and Irish put the hammer down.
Theo Brophy-Clews on the end of a superb Joe Cockanasiga offload gave the home side their first score of the half with 15 minutes to play. Shortly after that the big winger himself got on the score-sheet for a try bonus point. Tommy Bell had taken over the kicking and converted the first but went wide on the second to give Irish 8 minutes to play and a four point defecit to claw-back.
Had the second conversion gone over those last minutes would have been even more frantic with the men-in-green looking for a drop-goal. As it was a re-awakened Gloucester defence held the home side away from their goal-line and the miracle fifth try didn't materialize. It would've been a great story but having given up a 17 point lead to 33 unanswered points it would arguably have been massively unfair.
Irish 29 - 33 Gloucester FT.
Before the game everyone had wondered what Declan Kidney and Les Kiss could bring to the struggling relegation favourites. With the best 30 minutes we've played for a while coming immediately they could feel pleased, however those 30 minutes were followed by 20 of the poorest. Who knows? A bit of confidence and a few tricks and the great escape may be on - the spririt shown to get back into the game was admirable. Irish finished the weekend 2 points closer to their nearest rivals which is better than a kick in the teeth.pqs: qs:
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