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Fixture Type: Aviva Premiership
Match Date: Sat 31 Mar 2012
Kick Off: 15:00
Venue: Sandy Park Stadium
Referee: Dave Pearson
Assistant Referee: Paul Burton
Assistant Referee: Ashley Rowden
The hosts were not sublime by any means but produced the sort of performance that the rugby public have come accustomed to seeing this season and deserved their 18-11 victory.
In a first half where both sides failed to create anything spectacular, Ignacio Mieres and Tom Homer traded penalty goals inside the first 15 minutes, before The Argentine, Mieres, edged the Chiefs back in front with a penalty on 21 minutes.
It was a quarter of rugby that saw both sides were trying to attack but failing to be clinical in the final third. Mieres could have moved Exeter further ahead had he not missed two very kickable chances leading into half time.
Rob Baxter’s side did finally create a bit of breathing space and crossed with a minute to go in the first half. A kick, deep into the Irish 22, was well dealt with by Tom Homer, but the young full back could only force the ball into touch five metres out from his goal line.
From the resulting line out replacement hooker Neil Clark, who had come on five minutes earlier and assured the Chiefs lineout which up to the point of his arrival had been an area the Exiles had dominated, found his jumper at the back and put the Chiefs on the front foot. After five phases of keeping the ball tight second rower James Hanks found space to power over the try line. Mieres added the conversion to give the Chiefs a 13-3 lead going into the break.
Irish needed a response in the second half and the coaching team certainly got one. Ofisa Treviranus entered the fray and stamped his authority on the contest with a couple of great tackles.
The Exiles crossed the whitewash on 50 minutes with a try straight off the training ground. David Paice found Bryn Evans at the lineout and the Former All Black dropped the ball off the top to Darren Allinson. The Welsh scrum half fizzed a pass to Steve Shingler who, in turn, nudged a nicely weighted kick over the first line of Chiefs defenders and enabled Joe Ansbro to run on and reclaim possession.
With the Exiles now on the front foot and with quick ball Allinson passed to Jarvis whose grubber kick through into the hosts 22 sat up nicely for Tom Homer to gather and dot down.
It was a score completely against the run of play that the Exiles created through imaginative rugby.
Tom Homer further reduced the arrears with a penalty 30 metres out to put Irish well in the hunt with less than half an hour to go.
This was to be as close as the visitors got. Gonzalo Camacho, who had made two fantastic breaks in the second half, scored in the right hand corner after good initial play by the Chiefs inside backs had created the overlap.
18-11 down with five minutes left saw the Exiles with a chance to sneak a draw. They had plenty of possession in the Exeter red zone but could not quite break down the determined home defence. The hosts held out for the win.
Saracens are up next for London Irish in the Aviva Premiership on 14th April at Madejski Stadium.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 0-3, 3-3, 3-6, 3-13, 8-13, 11-13, 11-18
Scorers: London Irish: Tries: Homer (50); Penalties: Homer (14, 56); Exeter Chiefs: Tries: Hanks (39), Camacho (63); Conversions: Mieres; Penalties: Mieres (8, 21)
15. Phil Dollman; 14. Gonzalo Camacho; 13. Bryan Rennie (rep: Sireli Naqelevuki, 54) ; 12. Jason Shoemark; 11. Matt Jess; 10. Ignacio Mieres (rep: Gareth Steenson, 71); 9. Haydn Thomas (rep: Kevin Barrett, 51); 1. Hoani Tui (rep: Ben Moon, 51); 2. Chris Whitehead; 3. Craig Mitchell (rep: Chris Budgen, 79); 4. Tom Hayes (Captain); 5. James Hanks (rep: Aly Muldowney, 54); 6. Tom Johnson; 7. James Scaysbrook; 8. Richard Baxter
Replacements: 16. Neil Clark; 17. Ben Moon; 18. Chris Budgen; 19. Aly Muldowney; 20. Ben White; 21. Kevin Barrett; 22. Gareth Steenson; 23. Sireli Naqelevuki
London Irish team
15. Tom Homer; 14. Marland Yarde ; 13. Joe Ansbro; 12. Steven Shingler (rep: Delon Armitage, 54); 11. Sailosi Tagicakibau; 10. Adrian Jarvis; 9. Darren Allinson (rep: Paul Hodgson, 68); 1. Alex Corbisiero (rep: Max Lahiff, 62); 2. David Paice (rep: James Buckland, 68); 3.Paulica Ion (rep: Leo Halavatau, 54); 4. Nick Kennedy (Captain); 5. Bryn Evans; 6. Matt Garvey (rep: Ofisa Treviranus, 40); 7. Declan Danaher (rep: Bob Casey, 62); 8. Jamie Gibson (rep: Alex Gray, 54)
Replacements: 16. James Buckland; 17. Max Lahiff; 18. Leo Halavatau; 19. Bob Casey; 20. Alex Gray; 21. Ofisa Treviranus; 22. Delon Armitage; 23. Paul Hodgson
Referee: Dave Pearson