Winter is Here!
November 23 2018
London Irish welcomed Cornish Pirates to the Madejski Stadium for the second time in a month for their clash in the Championship cup. The first encounter was probably the game of the season so far (judging by others' comments - I missed it sadly) and Irish had named a pretty-much full-strength team so the possibility for another hum-dinger was there.
Let's face it, though, the Championship Cup is a nonsense, nobody really cares about it (the announced 2k crowd, closer to 1k IMNVHO is the prime indicator here) and so the Pirates made the long trip with a much-weakened backline and paid the price.
From the off the visitors struggled to stop the Exiles from playing their game. An early penalty gave the hosts the lead and was quickly followed by a fantastic try from Lovejoy Chawatama, well supported by some good handling up-front to expose the Cornish defence to see the prop show a frankly amazing turn-of-speed for a big lad.
The backs must've been watching because a rarity then happened - an Irish backs try! Drives from the forwards dragged the defensive wingers in and the backs soun th ball out to capitalise on the resulting overlap putting Tom Fowlie in for the score.
Pirates showed a bit of spirit to try an muscle their way back into the game. Irish struggled to hold them. Debutant Terrence Hepetema playing centre put in a hit just in-front of the South end of the West stand that we could hear in the North end of West upper- impressive given the Cup's lower-tackle rules, welcome sir! After an extended period of pressure Irish lost Jake Schatz to the sin-bin. The number 8 was adjudged to have tipped a Cornish player in the tackle despite captain Barney Maddison's protestations that the tackled-player had dived off his feet. It was probably fair to lose someone but I felt Jake was unlucky.
While down to 14 men the home side couldn't hold the resurgent visitors and the Pirates winger O'Meara finished off a nice wide-move for the score.
That was it for Cornish in the first-half, but not for Irish who, still with 14 men managed to hit-back straight away with a lovely break from new club-centurion Scott Steele finished-off one-on-one by Greig Tonks.
Half Time: Irish 24 - 7 Pirates
An early penalty for Pirates closed the gap before a flurry of Irish mauls were stopped illegally numerous time and referee Alexander Thomas gave a penalty try and Irish had a bonus point.
More Exiles pressure continued and a Cornish centre was dispatched to the bin for slowing the ball down after a break-away by the hosts. The visitors were already struggling an disparity in numbers allowed two quick tries for Irish from Ollie Hoskins and Ben Loader.
As the yellow-card ended Max Northcote-Green made it seven tries and, with 50 points on-the-board and a 100% kicking record Stephen Myler was allowed to leave the pitch for a well-earned rest.
Pirates to their credit hadn't given up and upped the pressure to take some second-half points but it was their last score of the day while Irish, with Jacob Atkins at 10 managed a further two tries from Jake Schatz and Napolioni Nalaga. Atkins managed to convert the second (and more difficult) one to leave it Irish 64 - 17 Pirates.
On a bitter day (how we Easties miss our sun-drenched seats...) it was a good result and it was good to see some genuine attacking flair from London Irish. Let's hope they can build on it when the league returns and, with a following wind, back in the GP next season.pqs: qs:
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