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The Exiles at one stage had a 16-3 lead going into half time but a Luther Burrell try just before the break turned out to be crucial for the home side.
Irish made much the better start to the game and from the first lineout a well worked throw saw flanker Jamie Gibson go flying up the right touch line only to be tackled a few metres out from the try line. Leeds were penalised for being offside as a result and Chris Malone put the first points of the game on the board after six minutes.
Chris Malone had his second kick at the posts after nine minutes. The London Irish front row of Dermody, Buckland and Rautenbach were putting the Leeds front three under immense pressure. Unfortunately Malone’s kick drifted just wide.
That was to be the last action for Chris Malone as he left the field with a shoulder injury after 15 minutes and was replaced by Ryan Lamb. Lamb had his first shot at the posts after 20 minutes for an infringement at the ruck by a Leeds player. He made no mistake to extend the lead to 6-0.
The game turned into a game of kicking table tennis for a few minutes and this led to another Irish penalty. Leeds were penalised for being in front of the kicker and Lamb stepped up to extend the lead to 9-0.
Leeds struck back moments after with a penalty of their own through Adrian Jarvis. It came about through a rare Irish mistake in the first half and Jarvis stepped up to punish it.
The introduction of Ryan Lamb to the game did change things with his expansive passing to the Irish outside backs causing Leeds quite a few problems.
Irish scored their first try of the game after 32 minutes and it was an absolute beauty. Ryan Lamb got the ball from Paul Hodgson from a scum just outside the Leeds 22 metre line and did a switch move with Dan Bowden, Bowden then threw an inside ball to Topsy Ojo who went flying through the gap before drawing the full back and passing to Mapusua outside him who dived over for the try. Lamb added the conversion to give the Exiles a 16-3 lead.
Leeds crossed the line just before the break with a try from Luther Burrell after he claimed a cross field kick from Jarvis to score in the corner. Jarvis added the conversion and cut Irish’s lead to just six points.
Irish made a great start to the second half forcing a Leeds knock on at the kick off. This allowed Paul Hodgson to get his hands on the ball to place a neat little kick into the touch line just five metres out from the Leeds try line.
Leeds then took the initiative and were showing a lot of desperation in attack only to be foiled by great Irish defence.
Ryan Lamb scored the first points of the second half with a drop goal after 18 minutes of play, converting the small pressure Irish had be given so far into points.
Leeds came storming back scoring a try through Daniel Browne. Scrum half Scott Mathie took a quick tap penalty catching London Irish off guard in defence, before setting up Daniel Browne to dive over the line. Jarvis added the conversion.
The Leeds try lifted the whole team and they were celebrating their third try of the game not long after and it came from replacement prop forward Mike Macdonald. Jarvis added the conversion to give Leeds the lead for the first time in the game 24-19.
Adrian Jarvis added a penalty with five minutes to go to end Irish’s hopes of victory and to complete an unlikely comeback. The Yorkshire side finished the game 27-19 winners.
Irish now face a two week break before welcoming Exeter Chiefs to the Madejski Stadium on the 26th March for the St Patrick’s Party.
Score sequence: (London Irish first) 3-0, 6-0, 9-0, 9-3, 16-3, 16-10, 19-10, 19-17, 19-24, 19-27
Scorers: London Irish: Penalties: Malone, Lamb 2, Tries: Mapusua (32); Conversions: Lamb; Drop goals: Lamb Leeds: Penalties: Jarvis (2); Tries: Burrell (38), Browne (63), Mike Macdonald (73); Conversions: Jarvis (3)
15. Michael Stephenson; 14. Henry Fa’afili; 13. Luther Burrell; 12. Scott Barrow (rep: Semi Taduala, 40); 11. Peter Wackett; 10. Adrian Jarvis; 9. Scott Mathie; 1. Gareth Hardy (rep: Mike Macdonald, 51); 2. Steve Thompon; 3. Phil Swainston (rep: Juan Gomes,51); 4. Daniel Browne; 5. Marco Wentzel (Captain) (rep: Hohneck, 13); 6. Kearnan Myall; 7. Hendre Fourie; 8. Alfie To’oala
15. Tom Homer; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Seilala Mapusua; 12. Dan Bowden; 11. Jonathan Joseph (rep: Adam Thompstone, 52); 10. Chris Malone (rep: Ryan Lamb, 13); 9. Paul Hodgson; 1. Clarke Dermody (Captain); 2. Ames Buckland; 3. Faan Rautenbach (rep: Paulica Ion, 52); 4. Nick Kennedy; 5. Bob Casey (rep: Keran Roche, 52 rep: Rob Herring, 79); 6. Jamie Gibson; 7. Steffon Armitage; 8. George Stowers (rep: Richard Thorpe, 63)
Referee: Rob Debney