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As a game, it was not a great advert for rugby, however at this stage of the season wins are crucial and today’s victory keeps Irish in the hunt for a play-off position.
The Exiles made a great start to the game. The first line out was won off the top by Nick Kennedy and crashed up the middle by Mapusua. Quick ball followed and fly half Chris Malone puts in a neat stab kick in the Harlequins 22 and a great chase from Adam Thompstone forced Harlequins full back Mike Brown over for a five metre scrum. Irish were unable to take advantage of this great attacking position and were unable to cross the try line something that would remain for both sides for the games entirety.
Irish did turn this first bit of pressure into points as Chris Malone stepped up to make it 3-0 after five minutes.
Harlequins came straight back and were level two minutes later. Winger Ollie Lindsay-Hague made a great break forcing Irish to give away a penalty at the breakdown. Rory Clegg kicked the penalty to put the side’s level.
Rory Clegg had another shot at the posts moments later when referee Sean Davey penalised the Exiles for not rolling away after making the tackle. Clegg made no mistake and put the visitors in front.
The Exiles dominated possession for the next ten minutes using the boot of Chris Malone to pin Harlequins back in their own 22.
London Irish had the early edge upfront with Faan Rautenbach and skipper Clarke Dermody putting the visitor’s front row under immense pressure. This led to another Irish penalty which number 10 Chris Malone had no problem with, to put the Exiles level at 6-6.
Irish were dominating territory and possession and were starting to convert this into points every time they were in the Harlequins 22. Malone made the score 9-6 after 26 minutes when Harlequins were penalised for being offside.
Seilala Mapusua continued to do what he does best in defence, smashing Harlequins speedster Ugo Monye back five metres in the tackle before the cavalry arrived to turn the ball over. These moments of defensive brilliance really brought the crowd into the game and they continued to get behind the Exiles throughout the encounter.
Harlequins drew level just before the break after Irish were penalised at the breakdown. It was a tough call considering Adam Thompstone had got to his feet to win the ball as the Harlequins player was isolated. Clegg made no mistake to draw the side’s level.
The home side had two opportunities to go into the break ahead but a Malone penalty and Homer penalty both hit the uprights to leave the sides level at half time.
The opening 10 minutes of the second half was somewhat of a scrappy affair with both sides failing to find any rhythm to their play. It was eleven minutes into the second period before the first points were scored through a Tom Homer penalty. It came about through some great Irish pressured defence and ended with Homer slotting a penalty on the Harlequins 10 metre line.
The first try of the game almost came after the 60 minute mark. Samoan centre Seilala Mapusua dropped the ball onto the boot in the Harlequins 22 for the chasing Steffon Armitage, however the ball just ran into touch at the last minute, otherwise Steffon would have scored in the corner.
Mapusua’s kick to the corner seemed to kick start the Exiles again as they put enormous pressure on the visitors. This pressure finally told as Harlequins centre Jordan Turner-Hall was sent to the sin bin as a result of his team’s earlier indiscipline. Chris Malone stepped up to edge Irish further ahead 15-9.
Paul Hodgson was sent to the sin bin after 65 minutes for a mystery refereeing decision.
Richard Thorpe replaced Steffon Armitage on 70 minutes after earlier leading the team out to celebrate his 100th appearance for the club to join his side for a final defensive effort.
The last five minutes turned out to be a nervy affair for the home side. Harlequins were throwing everything at them but the Irish defence was up to the challenge.
The defence that had been so evident throughout came through in the end as another huge Irish tackle forced a knock on and at the same time put an end to the contest with Irish winning the game 15-9.
The win moves the Exiles into fifth position in the Aviva Premiership level on points with Northampton and Harlequins. Next up for London Irish is a trip to Leeds next Sunday.
Score sequence: (London Irish first) 3-0, 3-3, 3-6, 6-6, 9-6,9-9, 12-9, 15-9
Scorers: London Irish: Penalties: Malone (4), Homer; Harlequins: Penalties: Clegg (3)
15. Tom Homer (rep: Jonathan Joseph, 68); 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Seilala Mapusua; 12. Dan Bowden; 11. Adam Thompstone; 10. Chris Malone (rep: Ryan Lamb, 63); 9. Paul Hodgson (sin bin 65-75, rep: Darren Allinson, 75); 1. Clarke Dermody (captain); 2. James Buckland; 3. Faan Rautenbach (rep: Paulica Ion, 70); 4. Nick Kennedy; 5. Bob Casey (rep: Kieran Roche, 43); 6. Jamie Gibson; 7. Steffon Armitage (rep: Richard Thorpe, 70); 8. George Stowers
15. Mike Brown; 14. Tom Williams; 13. Ugo Monye; 12. Jordan Turner-Hall (sin bin, 61-71); 11. Ollie Lindsay-Hague (rep: Ross Chisholm, 60); 10. Rory Clegg; 9. Dave Moore; 1. Joe Marler (rep: Ceri Jones, 54); 2. Joe Gray; 3. James Johnston; 4. Ollie Kohn; 5. Pete Browne; 6. Maurie Fa’asavalu (rep: Chris York,71); 7. Will Skinner; 8. Chris Robshaw (captain)
Referee: Sean Davy