Revenge, Served Cold.
February 1 2019
It had been billed as "The Re-match" since the defeat at Jersey. The plucky islanders with their freakish last-play try from under their own posts had shaken the belief of Irish support and killed the possibility of a perfect season. The few hundred Exile supporters who made the journey still had a good time, I gather it's a great away trip (and I really should make it one day), but a win would've made it so much sweeter.
So people were looking at the return match at the Madejski with a bit of trepidation. A win would settle nerves, a loss would show serious problems and a fight on our hands.
It was a bitterly cold day, the wind was vicious but in the bowl we only really had the temperature to worry about. I was glad to be sitting and drumming rather than playing and I was expecting an error-strewn bitty game.
As it turned-out there were quite a few errors, but no more than we've made most of the season, and the level of control shown by Irish, especially in the first quarter, took the game away from Jersey. Early possession by the visitors was held firm and once Irish had the ball they really looked to make it work for them. Both forwards and backs managed to turn possession into territory gains and very quickly captain Josh McNally crossed the whitewash. Even though Jacob Atkins was at fly-half Ben Meehan took (and missed) the conversion in a smart piece of man management - we all know Atkins can kick from a tee but this left him free to concentrate on his game management in what was a tough test for the youngster.
Shortly after this Meehan kicked a penalty to give the home side a 10 - 0 lead.
Jersey worked hard to get into the game and, despite good soid defence from the Exiles the visitors were making ground. A smart move (and, for this viewer, a forward pass) gave one of the Jersey props a fine run into the Irish goal area but he was deemed held-up by the TMO. Fine defence, I was fairly convinced it would be given. The subsequent scrum gave Jersey a penalty which they wisely kicked between the posts for what it turned-out was their only score of the day.
Irish pressure told again and again with Sir opting not to card the Jersey offenders who prevented attacks from coming into fruition but the Exiles weren't put-off. A good team move between van der Merwe and Hepetema saw the centre scorching through the middle angling toward the corner in space. When he was closed-down by the Jersey defence his off-load would've given McClean a try but for the Jersey scrum-half batting it down. It was instinctive and we'd all have done it but it's about as obvious a yellow card as I've ever seen.
The extra man gave Irish even more control and it wasn't long before a pack try came from a driving maul - credited to Fainga'a.
Jersey shifted into a high-risk strategy, they increased their efforts to off-load in the tackle and had some success. They were again held-up over the line but their hosts were canny. Irish started to anticipate the off-load and on multiple occasions took the ball from it and caused havoc for the men-in-red.
The dam had, temporarily, broken and Irish were in total control. First Tom Stephenson and then Terrence Hepetema crossed for Irish's 3rd and, crucially, 4th try.
It's to Jersey's credit that they carried on playing and prevented their hosts from scoring many more. The visitors' defence made it a much more difficult afternoon than the 27 - 3 scoreline would suggest.
A bonus point win was exactly what was needed and gives Irish supporters some qualified hope for a Premiership return. Ealing, however, matched the feat at Headingley and it is still far from a foregone conclusion (more's the pity).pqs: qs:
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:02:01:16:03:05 by Craic Admin.