By Irish Wolfhound
October 25 2011
Yet another LV cup mystery to sort out. London Irish's win today helped Harlequins in their LV pool whilst consolidating our lead. Irish extended their lead at the top of the pool with a bonus point win against Newcastle Falcons.
I was a little surprised myself at the emptiness of the stadium as I strolled to my seat. Surely the final had already finished? Watching an Irish LV cup match can be a little nerve racking at times. A bit like France you never know which London Irish will turn up. However this year it seems Toby has put a lot of effort into winning and I don't think the boys disappointed.
The whistle blew and the action got under way. From the off Falcons sent a long kick down field. Delon Armitage caught it with ease and sent back a high kick of his own. Unfortunately this one didn't quite go to plan and ended up spiralling downwards about 5 metres up the pitch and 20 metres across it. Irish tried to regather but it resulted in a knock on.
Falcons scrum was immediately put under pressure with the scrum being driven backward. The referee gave Irish a penalty which Shingler hammered down the touchline to the falcons 22. After a long period of sustained pressure Irish made 5 metres through another forward drive only to be caught holding on to the ball. After a period of Falcons attack Irish went hunting for the first points again. It was driven to Newcastles 22 and yet again turned over. This time the falcons put in a box kick which was chased by their left wing . If the ball was round Newcastle would have been in but the bounce beat the player and sailed back over his head. Anthony Watson scrambled back and cleared it away.
After further play Irish conceded another penalty and 10 minutes in the falcons had their first real attacking platform on the Irish 22. The falcons pack quickly gained possession and drove their way up to the five metre line. After several series of pick and drives the falcons outside centre sprung over the line only to knock on after a last ditch covering tackle. The 5 metre scrum was again dominated by Irish winning another penalty to clear up to the ten metre line.
The penalty should have relieved some pressure but the ball was stolen at the line out by Falcons. The ball was quickly whipped out to their left winger who broke through JJ's tackle to bring the ball back to the 22'. A huge drive by the Falcons flanker went straight through the centre and was offloaded. The play was brought down on the try line again. The ball was held up and from the scrum Falcons gained some slow ball. After another phase of pick and drive the ball found its way out to the wing where their number 12, Helleur, ran into to take the first points of the match. Mannings conversion from the right missed leaving the score 5-0 with 23 minutes left to play.
London Irish restart woes began and from the off a penalty was awarded. The referee had a quiet word and the game continued. After a couple of phases play Armitage steals the ball and chips it on. A ruck formed in the falcons 22' and Irish stole the ball. Bryn Evans smashed his way to the five metre line. With some quick hands JJ passes it out to Shingler who shows and goes and pops the ball out to Thompstone to score. Shingler adds the extras to give Irish the lead 7-5.
After another bad restart Falcons regained the ball inside the Irish 22' and started building phases. After several pick and drives the pressure told and Irish gave away another penalty with 18 minutes to go. The Falcons flyhalf sends the ball sailing through the posts to regain the lead. From the Irish restart the falcons were on the attack. Another penalty from offside gave the falcons a line out on the halfway line. Kennedy making his 200th appearance stole the ball again in the air setting up a smooth counter attack. The ball was flung out to the wing and JJ beat the first defender to get brought down on the ten metre line. Falcons were caught not rolling and Irish took the opportunity to score again. Shingler gave Irish a two point lead ten minutes before the break.
After several minutes of the ball changing hands Irish cleared long down to the Falcons 22'. The fullback steadied himself and kicked it long back it went straight into touch and after the other linesman intervened play was brought back for and Irish lineout on the 22'. Several rucks later and Irish had a penalty advantage. Ross Samson ,9, took the advantage and threw a long pass to Delon who scythed back into the 22' only to knock on in the tackle. The referee came back for the earlier infringement and Shingler slotted the five minutes before the break.
After the restart Delon Armitage made and encouraging run only taken down on the half way line. The ball was turned over and then knocked on. In the scrum a dominant Irish pack gained another penalty which Shingler put through the posts ending the half at London Irish 16 Newcastle 8.
After the break the Irish attempts and collecting the restart continued to be abysmal. For one of the first times Irish caught the ball only to have it knocked on from a lousy pass. This then gave Falcons an attacking platform to build on. The falcons employed a tactic used by them through out the match a chip over the defence. Luckily Armitage was playing the sweeper and gathered and cleared. Jeremy Manning caught and took a drop goal attempt from the halfway line. It bounced off the left upright.
After several penalties for Irish Falcons regained possession of the ball and kicked down field to Anthony Watson who seemed unsure of himself and passed to Delon Armitage to clear. Armitage then miss hit the ball and it flew into touch on the Irish 22'. From the lineout a maul was formed and the Falcons were on the march. Again Irish were caught offside awarding penalty advantage. It appeared advantage was played when a dummy pass from the Falcons wing set them up with a ruck ten metres away from the Irish line. The referee disagreed and pulled play back to just outside the 22'
An early scare at 50 minutes was when Thorpe was replace by David Sisi. Luckily this was only a blood substitution. Another strong Falcons maul pushed play well into the Irish 22'. Lax defence allowed the falcons number 10 to run through popping the ball out to the number 14 just brought down on five metre line but the quick ball meant an easy run in for Falcons second try scored by number 15 Goosen. The easy conversion made it 15-16 in favour of the exiles.
With 27 minutes left to play the ball was cleared long to Anthony Watson who again passed to Armitage. Armitage cleared his lines only as far as the 10 metre line. From the line out Falcons set up a maul which was taken down by Irish. Manning dutifully slotted the points making it 18-16 to Newcastle. Just before the restart Booth made up his mind and brought on the cavalry substituting Shingler and Samson for Allinson and Bowden. The change was immediately obvious as the tempo of the game increased tenfold. Armitage was through the first line of defence only to be taken down on the 22'. Bowden rushed to the ball and played a miss pass out to the wing. All supporters held their breath as the ball sailed into the onrushing defenders arms. It then bounced from his grip and the referee halted play to award a penalty for deliberate knock on to Irish. Bowden took over kicking duty and scored again to get a 19-18 lead for Irish.
Finally a great restart take from Irish as Thorpe caught and stormed through the Falcons defence. He fended off numerous tackles and burst onto the 22'. A ruck formed and Paulica Ion smashed the defence back. After some more powerful drives the ball was passed out only for it to go behind Kennedy. JJ scrambled back and picked it up. He waltzed his way through the oncoming defenders and took Irish back to the 22'. Quick ball out to Hape who drew two defenders creating the gap for Delon to run in. With twenty minutes remaining Bowden missed the conversion making Irish a 24-18 lead. Another substitution as made as Paulica Ion as replaced by Faan Rautenbach. From the restart Falcons looked to gain some control however the cool head of Bowden launched a kick down to the Falcons 22'. The ball took an unfortunate bounce and ended up trickling into the try area. Falcons dotted it down for a twenty two drop out. It was taken long and JJ collected. Another mesmerising run saw him offload to Delon who flew up to the ten metre line. A lovely passing play saw Bowden in free space with only the full back to beat but he slipped at the last second. The forwards crashed the ball on to gain fast ball. Another pick and drive was set up for Rautenbach to attack. A bone crunching tackle was put it sending Faan off his feet. Immediately advantage was given for a dangerous tackle. Bowden took a kick to nothing and scored a drop goal to extend the Exiles lead to 27-18.
Irish nearly increased their lead with a chance on 63 minutes. Bowden grubbered the ball through for Anthony Watson to chase. Watson regathered possession but was forced into touch just shy of the five metre line. Then a triple substitution brought fresh blood onto the field. Buckland for Blaney, Kennedy for Sandford and Danaher for Sisi.
Another sustained period of pressure on the halfway line finally paid off. Bowden drew a few defenders and gave crash ball to Hape. Hape burst through and drew the defender and passed back to Bowden. The replacement flyhalf finished off a brilliant move by scoring under the posts. An easy conversion was not missed and the score was 34-18 with a quarter of an hour to go. The match was not all serious as a the falcons number 8 tried a chip and chase which was gathered by Delon Armitage. Hape was not having a great game however with many of his passes going into touch.
A few moments later Falcons knocked on from the line out and gave Irish the ball on the halfway line. The dominant scrum forced a penalty and Bowden kicked it out to touch. It went to the 22' and was driven on by Lahiff. After many pick and drives Irish rumbled on to the five metre line. Just as the Irish pack seemed to be on the brink of a try the referee was brought into a ruck. A scrum was given to Irish and the pressure finally told ten minutes from time. From the scrum Bowden got the ball on the 22'. He put a small kick through but was taken out. Luckily a host of Irish attackers were on hand to finish off the move. Thompstone collected and went over for the bonus point. From the earlier tackle on Bowden he looked injured. Delon missed the conversion. Bowden seemed to recover to the relief of all supporters.
The final five minutes was dominated by territorial kicking. Newcastle were scrambling to try and lower the points difference. The kicking finally told thirty seconds from time. Delon was put under pressure and thinking that the match was over booted the ball high into the crowd. The referee took a different view saying there was enough time for the line out on the five metre line. Falcons secured the ball and drove it to the line. After a couple of drives the ball was passed out and Falcons scored through a small gap in the line. Manning missed the conversion.
It was a disappointing end to a great match which saw Irish run out victors 39-23. It consolidated the top of the pool position one point ahead of Leicester Tigers. Through Falcons loss Quins moved up to second. Hopefully Irish will stay ahead of the competition and continue to compete and earn a semi final spot and hopefully some silverware.