London Irish: 28
London Irish kicked off their pre-season campaign with an impressive 28-12 victory over Harlequins in the Cunningham Duncombe Series. Tries from Blair Cowan, Ross Neal, Siniteki Nayalo and Jacob Atkins secured a morale boosting triumph as the Greene King IPA Championship season looms large.
Defensive unity and an attacking edge won the day for Nick Kennedy’s troops, who displayed team spirit, discipline and an effective game plan throughout the contest.
Blair Cowan got the scoring underway for Irish on nine minutes, capping off a sublime attacking move to touch down in the corner. An exquisite offload from Canadian international Ciaran Hearn unleashed Cowan, who sprinted 20 metres to cross the line. Tommy Bell converted from out wide for a 7-0 lead.
Quins responded with a period of sustained pressure as they looked to restore parity, but their endeavour was met by a steely Irish rearguard. George Robson, on his old stomping ground set the tone with a robust ball and all tackle.
With the hosts continuing to pose a threat in attack, Irish countered with devastating effect to double their lead going into the break. Greig Tonks pounced on a loose ball inside his own 22, before shifting the ball to Scott Steele on the blindside, who motored up to half way. Hauled down by a series of scrambling defenders, Steele was supported by two Irish attackers and Neal, on the overlap, eased in under the posts.
The introduction of six players from the bench at the interval would not impede the Exiles’ ability to push home their supremacy, despite Quins halving the deficit eight minutes into the second period. George Merrick crashed over for a converted try, but on the hour mark the uncompromising figure of Siniteki Nayalo bulldozed his way to the line.
Tonks slotted home the conversion to make it 21-7. And three minutes later, 18- year-old academy product Jacob Atkins put the icing firmly on the cake as the ball was moved through hands at speed. Bell’s audacious conversion wide right gave his side a healthy 28-7 margin.
Quins had the last say with a try from Jonas Mikalcius, but it would not spoil what was an encouraging performance from the men in green. The Exiles now gear up for Friday’s game against Nottingham Rugby before rounding off their pre-season schedule against Loughborough Students on Friday 26 August. Both games are at Hazelwood (kick-off 7.30pm).
Meanwhile, London Irish have entered talks with Hounslow about a move to Brentford grounds:
London Irish Rugby Club has upped its ambition to return to the capital by opening talks surrounding a proposed groundshare with Brentford FC.
Harlequins: 15 Aaron Morris, 14 Ross Chisolm, 13 Winston Stanley, 12 Harry Sloan, 11 Henry Cheeseman, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Karl Dickson (c), 1 Owen Evans, 2 Joe Gray, 3 Will Collier, 4 Charlie Matthews, 5 Sam Twomey, 6 Mat Luamanu, 7 Luke Wallace, 8 George Naoupu Replacements: 16 Dave Ward, 17 Mark Lambert, 18 Matt Shields, 19 George Merrick, 20 James Chisolm, 21 Charlie Mulchrone, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Matt Hopper, 24 Jonas Mikalcius
London Irish: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Ross Neal, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Fergus Mulchrone, 11 Aseli Tikoiratuma, 10 Tommy Bell, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 1 Tom Smallbone, 2 David Paice, 3 Ben Franks, 4 George Robson, 5 Jebb Sinclair, 6 Joe Trayfoot, 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Luke Narraway (c) Replacements: 16 Gerard Ellis, 17 Tom Court, 18 Richard Palframan, 19 Will Lloyd, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Darren Allinson, 23 Tom Fowlie, 24 Jason Harris-White, 25 Danny Hobb-Awoyemi, 26 Ollie Hoskins, 27 Sebastian De Chaves, 28 Siniteki Nayolo, 29 Jerry Sexton, 30 Conor Gilsenan, 31 Max Northcote- Green, 32 Johnny Williams, 33 Jacob Atkins