The London Irish Academy performed consecutive sensational comebacks against west London rivals Harlequins at the Hazelwood Centre on Thursday (25th).
The under-17s faced off against their corresponding age group in a development game to precede the under-18s second Premiership Rugby Under-18 Academy League fixture.
Oliver Agar ran over for the under-17s opening try six minutes in, exposing space down the short side after a lineout routine but the follow-up conversion sailed wide.
Five minutes later, Quins took the lead with a burst from short range and then extended once more with a speedy line down the flank to dot down two minutes more, and with both converted, Irish were nine behind.
Things only worsened when a third converted Quins try added to a healthy advantage for the side from TW2, yet a reply was in order- and full-back Freddy Rossigneux obliged with Filip Edstrom adding the extras.
Agar was at the double, bustling his way across the whitewash soon soon after the outside back’s first score as the deficit was narrowed to just two points, but Quins bit back through their own 15 to halt Irish’s short points collection.
The Exiles, who never knew they were defeated throughout today, levelled proceedings for the first time as George Simpson’s try and Edstrom’s conversion meant with 180 seconds left, it was anyone’s game.
Irish grasped it, affirming it was theirs with a box office score at the death- Monty Richmond selfishly grubbered to ball through to Rossigneux from the opposite left wing, who then pounced on the ball in the goal area to secure the result with the game’s final play- magical scenes with Irish the 31-26 victors.
One challenge down, but a mighty one to go come 5.30pm.
London Irish under-17s squad vs Harlequins under-17s
15 Freddy Rossigneux, 14 Monty Richmond, 13 George Simpson, 12 Luc Anfield, 11 Godwin Afreh, 10 Filip Edstrom, 9 George Harris; 1 Micah Baidoo, 2 Harry Bicknell, 3 Joe Witchard, 4 Tayo Adegbemile, 5 Oliver Agar, 6 Ethan Barnard, 7 Elijah Taylor, 8 Zack Goforth.
16 Otto Bennett, 17 Milo Bourguignon, 18 Paul Dakunimata, 19 Matt Perry, 20 Calum Emmans, 21 Jody Bunce
The under-18s were up against it from the off in their second outing in the Under-18 Academy League, Quins again drawing first blood through Frank McMillian after loose forward James Davis exposed a gap in midfield to then offload to the centre, in what was the away side's first outing after playing out a bye.
Irish’s Ralph McEachran was the first receiver off a ruck close to the try line to set up the prop to bundle over, after quick feet from Jonny Sharp carved the inroads further into the away side’s territory- yet, an awry conversion attempt meant the boys in green still trailed.
Despite lack of discipline from Quins in promising positions where successive penalties were conceded at the ruck, those in the Famous Quarters added to their total after Theo Currie made impressive yards following an intercept to then feed Gabrial Kadir to go over.
Irish’s retort could not be registered before the break nonetheless, despite the lengthy clearance from Josh Bellamy surpassing the goal area and granting Irish with regained territory, a penalty conceded at the maul brought an end to the half.
No less than five minutes after resumption Quins were in again with another back-row forward scoring, Lucas Schmid powering through the Irish rearguard working off the back of a lineout manoeuvre.
It was to be the visitors’ final contribution to the affair (at least on the scoreboard), as a breakout from Kepu Tuipulotu on the short side broke Irish further into the goal area but was held up.
Irish were all over Quins, and from the subsequent penalty where Irish had advantage, play was spread to Tyler Offiah to gleefully touch down for his team and alongside Louie Heard’s conversion, the tie was restored to a one-score game.
Irish’s retention of the ball from a set-piece in midfield saw a penalty being awarded to the hosts, but after Heard’s touch finder possession was once more switched after the following lineout was deemed not straight.
Offiah continued his influence on the match with linebreak and a robust stride down his native right wing, but with the ball forced to be recycled another significant contribution from vice-captain Cameron Ellis saw him go over for tries in successive games, Heard bringing proceedings level at 19-all.
Irish were unrelenting, and were within a sniff of another score but their counterparts were penalised for an offside intervention in front of the posts, leaving Heard with an option to add three to his collection on the day which he did not refuse.
The game was not done however, and with much to do for Irish, substitute Jack Lee reclaimed a lost ball to give his side back possession as Quins purred.
Another switch in control saw Harlequins counter, but massive hits from Connor Peters and Tuipulotu unnerved the opposition, and the latter pitched in with an almighty clutch jackal turnover to award Irish the game.
Sensational- Irish took the game by 22 points to 19.
Junior Academy Lead Coach Jack Pattinson stated the core unity shared as one in the Club that has seen the Club become famed for its spirit on the field in recent years.
“These games aren’t good for my heart at all,” he jested.
“I think it shows what we are building here as an Academy, there is so much alignment throughout the whole Club and everyone is connected- there is a real brotherhood.
“This shows where we are going as a group.”
Pattinson commented on the determination in his under-18s side in picking up four points when it seemed most unlikely.
“For me, it’s just a reflection of the character in the group because we’ve known this from the last 18 months with the lads coming through the age groups- that performance has epitomised that.
“There was so much heart there, we never gave up and we done it for each other, the last minute really summed that all up there.
“I’m really proud of them, and it’s just the start.”
The Exiles currently occupy the top rung in the Premiership Rugby Under-18 Academy League with two wins from two after a bonus point win at Kingsholm last weekend also.
London Irish under-18s squad vs Harlequins under-18s
15 Jonny Sharp (Wiseman 55), 14 Tyler Offiah, 13 Harrison Hall (Bysouth 50), 12 Cameron Ellis (vc), 11 Theo Williamson, 10 Louie Heard, 9 Connor Peters (Cowan 25, Peters 40); 1 Ralph McEachran, 2 George Goodridge (Suleman 55), 3 Brandon Vince (Cockburn-Miller 55), 4 Ciaran Brickley (L Brickley 35), 5 Will Saunders (Hawker 55), 6 Kepu Tuipulotu, 7 Reggie Hammick (Lee 35), 8 Fin Worley-Brady (c).
16 Israel Suleman, 17 Ralph Hawker, 18 Jasper Cockburn-Miller, 19 Louis Brickley, 20 Jack Lee, 21 Noah Cowan, 22 Ben Bysouth, 23 Finlay Wiseman.
Massive kudos to all of our young Exiles!