Pre-Season: No luck for the Irish, London Irish v Harlequins
By Bedfordshire Boy
August 19 2017
Decided more or less at the last moment to make the trip to the Hazelwood facility at Sunbury to see the match against newly promoted London Irish for the Cunningham Duncombe Trophy. Very impressed with the set up, the warm welcome from the Irish fans and almost perfect conditions for rugby. Must admit that it was seeing Francis Saili amongst the squad that was the main attraction although disappointed once again to see that Dimitri Catrakilis was not featuring.
Quins were busy from the outset and almost straight away Marcus Smith demonstrated that there was definitely good reason for the recent hype in the press as he scythed through the Irish defence from the half way line before being tackled 5 metres short of the try line. Quins continued to attack close to the Irish line but finally came to a halt as the Irish were awarded a penalty allowing them to clear their line. It was Irish who were first on the scoreboard when after 8 minutes David Paice touched down from a rolling maul to which Tommy Bell added the extra points.
Quins got their first points on the board when the ball was recycled from an attack that was failing to make much headway close to the Irish line was passed to Marcus Smith who kicked to the left wing for Tim Visser to collect and touch the ball down. Smith failed with conversion, Irish 7 Quins 5 after 14 minutes. A couple of minutes later Joe Gray was shown a yellow card by referee Wayne Barnes while Luke Wallace was being treated for an injury which held up play for some 20 minutes before being stretchered off of the pitch. Dave Ward came on for the injured Wallace before Irish added 3 points to their score from the earlier penalty. Quins continued to press but were making very little headway against the Irish defence who again cleared their lines when Quins were penalised. The kick to the corner led to a second try of the afternoon for Irish when Du Plessis crossed for an unconverted score. Both teams continued to play open rugby and with a couple of minutes left to the first half, from a Quins scrum 5 metres out, Care passed to Smith whose weighted pass helped create an opening for Joe Marchant to score on the left hand side. With the conversion being missed, the half time whistle went with a score line of Irish 15, Quins 10. All in all a very entertaining first half with the scoreline just about reflecting the play but marred by the injury to Luke Wallace who had suffered a dislocated hip.
Marchant scores for Quins
The second half saw Quins fielding a completely different line up and Quins found themselves under sustained pressure before clearing their line and threatening to score at the other end of the pitch. With the forwards unable to penetrate the Irish defence, scrum half Dave Lewis released the ball to the backs and a long pass to Alofa Alofa on the wing allowed him to score in the corner. James Lang added the 2 extra points to put Quins in the lead for the first time, Irish 15 Quins 17after 50 minutes. The lead was short lived however as Irish had a series of penalty/line outs 5 metres from the Quins line before Alex Lewington crossed the line for Irish, and the successful conversion took the score to Irish 22, Quins 17. There followed a sustained period of ball retention by Quins without really making much headway into the Irish half, and all of the work was undone when Lewington intercepted a pass by Lang to gallop in for an easy try.
So within a period of about 10 minutes, from having a lead of 2 points, Quins were 12 points in arrears with Irish looking very comfortable. Alofa Alofa who had been very lively since his introduction at half time hobbled off the pitch following a heavy tackle to be replaced with the reintroduction of Charlie Walker. It looked very much as if Irish were going to end the day with the spoils as Quins continued to toil away in the middle of the pitch but a clearance kick by Lang on 75 minutes found touch 5 metres from the Irish line. Irish overthrew the line out ball which went straight to Dave Ward who stepped over the line for an easy score, and following the conversion by James Lang, the score moved on the Irish 29, Quins 24. With a couple of minutes left on the clock an intercept by Dave Lewis nearly resulted in another score but he was dragged down a few metres from the Irish line. Nonetheless Quins continued to press and were rewarded when Dave Ward broke through the Irish defence from about 20 metres out to score under the posts. James Lang added the two extra points to bring the final score to Irish 29, Quins 31.
Somewhere in the final 10 minutes, Francis Saili did get onto the pitch and looked very good in defence and was very active at the breakdown. I would imagine that Irish were a bit disappointed at the result although pretty happy with the performance. Quins have to be very disappointed with the injury to Luke Wallace and the fact that Alofa Alofa was walking with crutches after the game but very happy that they played for the whole 80 minutes. All in all a very enjoyable afternoon and great to see the players happy to mingle and chat with the supporters long after the final whistle. Still work in progress, but played two, won two is better than the alternative.pqs: qs:
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