London Irish’s British & Irish Cup run came to an end after a hard fought semi-final saw them defeated 17-25 by Jersey Reds.
Nick Selway’s 77th minute try sealed the victory for the Reds and their trip to Munster for the final. Despite positive play creating opportunities for Irish in the first 15 minutes, handling errors cost the home team any points on offer.
After missed penalties from both fly-halves in the first seven minutes, Jersey’s Callum Sheedy was on target with his second penalty attempt to give the away side the first points on the board.
On his return from helping the England U20s claim a Six Nations Grand Slam, Tom Parton swept along the left wing to give Irish their first score with a try on 21 minutes. Theo Brophy Clews added the extras. Not deterred, Jersey launched a string of attacks which sent Irish scrambling in defence with Greig Tonks saving the day with two crucial covers in the Irish 22.
Irish seemed to be back on the front foot with Joe Cokanasiga scything through the Jersey defence with a powerful run until Ross Neal’s pass was intercepted.
The Exiles’ attack was short-lived as Jersey pushed their way back into Irish’s 22 and Jordan Davies made a powerful run then stretched over the try-line to extend their lead with five mins of the first half to go. Sheedy continued an impressive kicking performance with a successful conversion giving the visitors a slender 7 – 10 lead going into the break.
Jersey came out with their tails up for the second half with plenty of pressure from their sizeable forwards leading to a try for No 8 Nick Haining five minutes in. Sheedy’s conversion went wide.
The Reds absorbed sustained pressure from the Irish forwards as they looked to puncture a whole through to the try-line.
Jersey stood strong until Brendan McKibbin who had come on for Darren Allinson in the 47th minute span the ball out to Ciaran Hearn who punched through from the centre at pace to score Irish’s second try. Brophy Clews nailed the conversion to move Irish within one point of the Reds at 14-15. Jersey moved straight back up into the Irish 22 in attack from the restart and were awarded a penalty but Sheedy knocked the kick wide.
This gave Irish time to regroup and mount their own attack which resulted in a penalty 40 metres out which Brophy Clews knocked over to give Irish a two-point lead.
Reds still had their eyes on the final prize and a kick to the corner led to a lineout five metres from the Exiles’ try-line. The pressure on the men in green told with Gerard Ellis yellow-carded for bringing down the ensuing maul meaning that Irish were one man down for the remaining nine minutes of the game.
Parton made way for Gleave to return to replace Ellis in the following scrum which led to a Sheedy penalty nudging the Reds ahead again with a few minutes to go.
With three minutes to go, Jersey capitalised on their one-man advantage to send Nick Selway over the whitewash to confirm their victory then Sheedy converted to seal Jersey’s place in the final.
LONDON IRISH: Tonks, Cokanasiga, Hearn, Neal (Ransom, 62 (Atkins, 78)), Parton (Gleave, 71), Brophy Clews, Allinson (McKibbin, 47), Elrington (Hobbs- Awoyemi, 56), Gleave (Ellis, 53), Hoskins, Lloyd, Sinclair (McNally, 56), Sexton (Narraway, 47), Gilsenan, Nayalo Jersey Reds: Cuthbert (Eastwell, 50), Watkins, Davies, Ma’afu, Scott, Sheedy, Hardy (Dudley, 77), Woolmore (McCarthy, 55), Buckle (Selway, 56), Kerrod (Armstrong, 56), Phillips, McKern (Kolo’ofai’i 55), Freeman (Argyle, 77), Graham, Haining