Please note that this match is a rescheduled fixture from that postponed in January.Click on the Video Camera Icon to watch HD match highlights of the Worcester v London Irish game.. .
London Irish overcame dreadful weather conditions and a determined opposition at Millmoor Stadium, Rotherham, to record an important away victory that lifted the Exiles to second place in the Zurich Premiership.
The match kicked-off in the torrential rain that had poured over south Yorkshire throughout the morning. That plus a bitterly cold wind made for very difficult conditions in which to play attractive rugby. To the credit of both teams, the players tried to play with ball in hand, that there were numerous errors was to be expected.
Irish started in dynamic fashion taking the game to their hosts. The early exchanges were played in the Rotherham half. Mark Mapletoft was unlucky in the third minute when a long range penalty from 40 metres fell just short.
That the poor conditions were to influence the game became readily apparent as players struggled to keep ball in hand. In the fifth minute Irish were awarded a scrum for a knock-on. Phil Murphy, who had another outstanding game, picked up at the back of the scrum and passed to Darren Edwards. He found Mapletoft who slipped the ball to Michael Horak who raced in from 30 metres to score on the right. Mapletoft's conversion attempt drifted wide.
Five of the much-changed Rotherham team were making their Premiership debut and took time to adjust to the pace and physicality of the play. Irish exploited the temporary inexperience and were unlucky when Paul Sackey's speedy burst up the right wing and slide over the goal line with the ball was ruled touch in goal mistakenly by the touch judge.
Irish were unlucky to lose Kieron Dawson to a potentially serious knee injury in the 20th minute when he lost his footing on the sodden surface. Dawson was replaced by Paul Gustard.
As the game moved into its second quarter the home team, prompted by their captain, Irish international scrum-half, Guy Easterby, forced the Exiles to defend in their half and resort to kicking away possession. The conditions helped to ensure that few scoring chances fell to either team.
The first-half was drawing to a close when Irish pressured Rotherham once again. Mark Mapletoft was unlucky when a drop goal attempt drifted wide in the 36th minute. In the first minute of injury time Irish got the better of a maul in mid-field. Paul Gustard was rewarded for his determined efforts to wrestle the ball clear, when aided by Declan Danaher he broke clear, and raced untouched from 30 metres to score just right of the posts. Mapletoft converted. Two minutes later, the home side's No 8 Brad McLeod-Henderson, was sin-binned for persistent infringement. Mapletoft successfully kicked the resulting penalty for a half-time score of 0-15.
The second half was only two minutes old when Irish were awarded a penalty, Mapletoft kicked for goal from 40 metres, however his kick fell short. The Exiles kept the Titans penned in their half during the early minutes of the third quarter moving the ball through phases better than one would have thought possible in the conditions.
Rotherham finally made their way into the Irish half in the 49th minute and were rewarded with a penalty which John Benson kicked from 40 metres. Encouraged by this score the home side attacked with vigour and it was Irish's turn to have to defend for the rest of the quarter.
Irish's extraordinary travelling supporters completely dominated the stadium with their chanting and encouraged their team to fight courageously through a testing period. Irish worked their way into the Rotherham half by playing a conservative pick and go game up through the middle of the field. Once again the home side were forced to defend deep as the game entered its final ten minutes. In the 76th minute Phil Jones, who had replaced John Benson in the 65th minute, broke through the Irish cover on the left. He made crucial metres before passing to his speedy left winger, Michael Wood. Even with a good ten metre gap to make up Paul Sackey set off in pursuit. He caught Wood just as he was going over the Irish goal line in the left corner. Paul appeared to have succeeded in wrapping his body round the ball to prevent the touch down. Referee Spreadbury following up behind saw it differently and awarded the try which Jones converted.
In a frantic ten minutes of normal time and injury time, brightened by rays of winter sunshine (!), both teams tried to add to their score. Neither was able to do so and so the game ended 10-15.
Speaking after the game London Irish Head Coach, Gary Gold, said that the game was as difficult as expected. "I was delighted with how we played in the terrible conditions in the first half. In the second we had a lot of possession which we didn't turn into points, all credit to the Rotherham defence for keeping us scoreless."