Paddy Lennon reports from Madejski Stadium
For the third weekend in succession London Irish found themselves on the wrong side of the score sheet in injury time. However, third time lucky as they say – this week Barry Everitt’s penalty in the 83rd minute sailed between the uprights to level the score and give the Exiles the draw they just about deserved.
Disaster struck Irish in the opening minutes when they lost both first choice prop forwards Neal Hatley and Rob Hardwick to injury. Hatley to a torn muscle in his ankle, hardwick to a head injury. Inevitably, the loss of two such key players impacted on the Irish set pieces.
The Irish forwards were called upon to work harder than ever and they did, especially Doug Wheatley and Adrian Flavin, the latter playing at prop! Phil Murphy had his best ever game for Irish, he made countless breaks over the gain line and was unlucky to be stopped on two occasions with the tryline within fifteen metres.
Harlequins provided tough competition for the ball at the breakdown, especially through their captain, Andre Vos. Ben Willis scored a push-over try and Simon Keogh showed great speed in finishing off Pat Sanderson’s outstanding pass.
Barry Everitt gave a faultless goal kicking display with five penalties out of five. His opposite number Andy Dunne kicked one penalty and one conversion.
Speaking after the game London Irish head coach, Gary Gold said he was poeased to come away with something in the circumstances. “I’m left with a bitter sweet taste,” Gary said, “We showed great character having lost our two props, however, we made too many simple errors and I can’t accept that.”
Scorers: London Irish: Penalty goals: Everitt 5 (12, 23, 40+7, 65, 83). NEC Harlequins: Tries: Willis (46), Keogh (80). Conversion: Dunne. Penalty goal: Dunne (17).
Scoring sequence (London Irish first): 3-0, 3-3, 6-3, 9-3 (half-time) 9-8, 12-8, 12-15, 15-15.
Referee: C White (RFU)