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Irish continue their quest to be the best against Tigers

Irish continue their quest to be the best against Tigers
London Irish head coach Declan Kidney. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

By Damian Dolan

London Irish will look to continue their quest for improvement when they welcome Leicester Tigers to the Madejski Stadium on Sunday (KO 2:30pm).

Declan Kidney’s Exiles took a losing bonus-point from their visit to the champions Saracens last weekend, when it could have been more against a Sarries side missing their eight England World Cup players, including captain Owen Farrell.

The champions, though, have since been rocked by a 35-deduction and a £5m fine for breaching the salary cap. The have since confirmed that they will appeal.

Irish led Saracens by five points with just four minutes to go only to ship a try and a match-winning penalty to the last kick of the game, to go down 16-13.

“We’re trying to be the best team that we can be every time that we take the pitch,” said London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney.

“There were lots of lessons that we learned in the Sale match and we put some of those to good use today, but every team presents a different type of challenge.


“We will learn lessons from today and we’ll be better in the next match, but so will the opposition. So we need to improve a few steps at a time to make sure we stay a pace with everybody else.”

Played in dreadful conditions at Allianz Park, Saracens led 8-6 at half-time. Stephen Myler with two penalties for Irish.

Number eight Albert Tuisue’s try and Myler’s conversion put Irish ahead and they nearly saw the game out. But Saracens capitalised on Allan Dell’s yellow card late on to snatch victory, and then even a draw, from Irish’s grasp.

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It gave Saracens a seventh straight victory over the Exiles.

“Any time you lose a game like that you’re always going to be extremely disappointed at the end of it,” said Kidney.

“Saracens are a club that are used to winning and it takes a while to get that vogue in tune.”


He added: “We had a lot of field position in the first half. We probably didn’t convert as much as we needed to, especially with type of a breeze.

“We came out in the second half and played a lot smarter. The forwards gave us good control and our half backs managed to control us around the place and [we] took the opportunity when it came our way, but coughing up eight points at the end cost us.”

While it could yet prove to be a valuable point, it’s victorious (six would give the Exiles more than a fighting chance) that will keep Kidney’s side in the Premiership, and see them bring the curtain up on the Brentford Community Stadium next year as a top-flight club, and not a Championship.

The stakes for London Irish couldn’t be higher in this regard.

A failure to turn close games into wins cost the Exiles dear in their last Premiership foray in 2017/18, and ultimately saw them relegated. Irish and their supporters must accept, and expect, the odd hammering on the scoreboard, it’s winning the tight contests that will keep them up.


This weekend represents Round 4 of the Premiership. Hostilities will then cease for two weeks while the European Cup and Challenge Cup takes centre stage.

It’s an opportunity to take stock and rest tired and bruised bodies, and gives all the chance to take stock and welcome back and integrate World Cup players.

On Sunday, Irish face a Leicester side which picked up their first points of the season last weekend when they defeated Gloucester by 16-13 at Welford Road.

The Exiles will be eager to make amends for the 41-7 defeat to Sale Sharks at the Madejski last time out.

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