London Irish opened their Gallagher Premiership account with a hard fought 26-29 win over Wasps at the Ricoh Arena this afternoon.
Tries from Blair Cowan, Albert Tuisue and a long range effort from Ollie Hassell-Collins, combined with 14 points off the boot of Paddy Jackson, was enough to get the Exiles across the line.
Irish started the contest well and after going behind to a Lima Sopoaga penalty striking back right away. Paddy Jackson fizzed a pass to Ollie Hassell-Collins who broke down the left-hand flank. The winger was tackled five metres short of the line but three phases later, Blair Cowan bundled over the line for the opening score of the game.
Sopoaga and Jackson traded penalties before the hosts struck back with their first try of the afternoon. The Exiles were turned over after gathering the restart and Wasps capitalised with Zach Kibirige squeezing in at the corner. The try gave Wasps an 11-8 lead.
Declan Kidney’s side continued to stay in the fight and, when Jackson kicked his second penalty goal of the afternoon from 45 metres the scores were level at 11-11 at the half hour mark.
With 10 minutes of the half remaining there was still a few twists and turns to take place. London Irish crossed for their second try of the afternoon following a well worked line-out. Paddy Jackson kicked to the corner and the resulting catch and drive saw a rampaging Albert Tuisue thunder back towards the Wasps try line carrying three Wasps defenders over with him.
The Exiles lead lasted three minutes, with Zach Kibirigie crossing for his second of the afternoon to lock the game up again, this time at 16-16.
Irish went into the break with the lead, Jackson converting his third penalty after a great penalty turnover was won by Blair Cowan. 16-19 Irish led at the break.
Hassell-Collins got what his first half performance deserved, three minutes into the second half. The winger sprinted in from 55 metres out, collecting a wide passed from the impressive Cowan to score his side’s third try. Jackson converted from the sideline to give his side a 10-point lead at 16-26.
A Jackson penalty five minutes later was converted as referee JP Doyle penalised Wasps for being offside in the midfield. Irish led 16-29 with just over 30 minutes remaining.
The following exchanges saw Wasps dominate possession in the Irish 22, however it was meet with resolute Irish defence. A stand-out moment saw Tom Parton make an outstanding try saving tackle to prevent Kibirigie his hat-trick in the corner.
The hosts were not to be denied and, after gutsy Irish defence, Dan Robson eventually spotted a gap to dot down and bring Wasps right back into it. Sopoaga’s conversion reduced the deficit to 23-29 in favour of London Irish.
Jacob Umaga, on as a second half replacement, reduced the arrears further with a penalty goal and it was agonisingly close moving towards the end.
Wasps were camped on the Exiles line with time up on the clock and, when the ball was fumbled by the hosts, Jackson touched down over the Exiles try line to secure a three point victory.
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Score sequence (Wasps first): 3-0, 3-5, 6-5, 6-8, 11-8, 11-11, 11-16, 16-16, 16-19, 16-26, 16-29, 23-29, 26-29
Wasps: Penalties: Sopoaga (9, 15) Umaga (73); Tries: Kibirigie (23, 36), Robson (66); Conversions: Sopoaga (67) London Irish: Tries: Cowan (10), Tuisue (33); Hassell-Collins (43); Penalties: Jackson (21, 26, 40, 48); Conversions: Jackson (43)
15. Tom Parton; 14. Ben Loader; 13. Curtis Rona; 12. Terrence Hepetema; 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins; 10. Paddy Jackson; 9. Scott Steele (rep: Ben Meehan, 40); 1. Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (rep: Harry Elrington, 52) 2. Saia Fainga’a (rep: Ross McMillan, 73); 3. Oliver Hoskins (rep: Lovejoy Chawatama, 73); 4. Franco van der Merwe © (rep: George Nott, 28); 5. Ruan Botha; 6. Matt Rogerson; 7. Blair Cowan; 8. Albert Tuisue
Replacements: 16. Ross McMillan; 17. Harry Elrington; 18. Lovejoy Chawatama; 19. George Nott; 20. Conor Gilsenan; 21. Ben Meehan; 22. Stephen Myler; 23. Matt Williams
15. Marcus Watson; 14. Zach Kibirige; 13. Malakai Fekitoa; 12. Michael Le Bourgeois; 11. Josh Bassett; 10. Lima Sopoaga; 9. Dan Robson (C); 1. Zurabi Zhvania; 2. Tom Cruse; 3. Kieran Brookes; 4. James Gaskell; 5. Charlie Matthews; 6. Brad Shields; 7. Jack Willis; 8. Sione Vailanu
Replacements: 16. Gabriel Oghre; 17. Ben Harris; 18. Jeff Toomaga-Allen; 19. Thibaud Flament; 20. Nizaam Carr; 21. Sam Wolstenholme; 22. Jacob Umaga; 23. Juan de Jongh
Referee: JP Doyle