London Irish 18-23 Edinburgh Rugby
Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan reports from the Madejski Stadium
In a roller coaster of an afternoon for the Irish faithful, the home sideweren’t rewarded with a Easter treat in spite of their valiant efforts throughout the second halfas Edinburgh burst Irish’s European bubble, just.
Within the opening stages of the game, Irish’s European rustiness was evident as they lacked determination to stamp authority upon their return to the knockoutstages of European Rugby.Edinburgh scrum half Sam Hidalgo-Clyne put the away sides first points on the board with an early penalty from just over the half way line,before converting a try from a dominant Scottish maul, eventually touched down by prop WP Nel. 10-0 after 12 minutes.
Throughout the first quarter, the occasion looked to be getting to the Exiles. Not playing with the attacking minded style of weeks gone by, the home side’s poor discipline gave Edinburgh the chance to capitalise and did so through another two Hidalgo-Clyne penalties, extending their lead to 16-0. Not being affected by Shane Geraghty’smiss of a kickable penalty,Irish escaped that phase of the game with some positive runs and swift passing spawning from the back three, with Geraghty adding Irish’s first points of the afternoon from a penalty soon after.
After another miss from Geraghty, it was these positive runs which led to Irish’s first try of the game. Courtesy of some slick passing interplay between Eamon Sheridan and Andrew Fenby, flanker Conor Gilsenan received the final incisive pass on the right wing for the Westmeath man to raceforty metres andfinish over the whitewash, savingIrish blushes before the break. With assistance from Geraghty’s conversion, the deficit was narrowed to six points at half time. 10-16
A successful Geraghty penalty opened the half well for Irish, however he did have the option of kicking for touch and potentially a try.Playing their best rugby of the afternoon so far,Irish dismissed Edinburgh’s opening attacking phaseswith some excellent work at the breakdown, and rapidly advanced up the pitch withsolid line breaking in a massive team effort, spurred on by the Irish support.There was now a sense of belief amongst the crowd, living up to the slogan used by the club in the lead up to the game, they were daring to dream.
The score Irish were looking for, and deserved, came through a neat chip from Geraghty over the ruck. Retrieved by Tom Fowlie, impressive inside half Scott Steele dived over in the corner after picking the ball up from Fowlie’s ruck, putting Irish in the lead for the first time. Geraghty couldn’t convert again however as Irish needed every point possible in the tight score line. Much to the dismay of the home side’s faithful, Edinburgh replied through a Fraser Mckenzie try, juking his way into an empty space in the tired Irish line after seventeen phases. 18-23
Typically, a defiant and resolute Irish didn’t lay down and put Edinburgh to the sword. With backs going into the maul after a line out, the endeavour of the home side wasclearly evident.Several phases of pressure afterward, David Paice looked to redeem himself after an earlier knock on as he crossed the try line. With the crowd in adulation, the referee went to the TMO as grounding was unclear. Despite the crowd’s best efforts of convincing everyone it was clearly grounded, the try was not given and effectively Irish were out of Europe.
London Irish: Fenby; Ojo, Griffin, Sheridan, Lewington; Geraghty, Steele; Court, Paice, Aulika, Skivington, Rouse, Gilsenan, Cowan, Guest.
Replacements: Stevens, Parr, Halavatau, Sinclair, Narraway, Allinson, Noakes, Fowlie.
Edinburgh: Tonks, Fife, Burleigh, Strauss, T. Visser, Heathcote, Hidalgo-Clyne, Dickinson, Ford, W. Nel, Bresler, Toolis, Grant, Watson, Denton.
Replacements: McInally, Sutherland, Andress, McKenzie, Leonardi, Fowles, Beard, Brown
Referee: Pascal Gauzere