London Irish welcomed Gloucester this week to the Madejski Stadium for their round nine game of the Aviva Premiership. 

Both sides, coming off back-to-back losses in the Premiership, were desperate for the win. Irish welcomed back five of their internationals into the starting line up in Blair Cowan, Jebb Sinclair, Kieran Low, Geoff Cross and Ofisa Treviranus as well as Tom Homer returning from injury, but skipper George Skivington failed to shake off his injury and missed the game. 

In a scrappy and frustrating game it was Gloucester who came out on top.  An error strewn performance from Irish saw Gloucester score two tries and four penalties with Irish kicking three second half penalties in response as Gloucester won 9 – 21.

An underwhelming first half saw Gloucester go into the break with a 0 – 3 lead. Tries from Henry Purdy and Steve McColl off the back of chips through from James Hook as well as the boot of Laidlaw kept Gloucester in front throughout, with Shane Geraghty kicking all of London Irish’s points.

In a scrappy and error prone opening 25 minutes from both sides it was Gloucester who came close to grabbing the first points of the game. 

James Hook, who pinned Irish back relentlessly with his boot, struck a tricky ball through forcing Scott Steele to concede a five metre line-out. 

From the line-out Gloucester hooker Richard Hibbard almost barrelled his way over but thanks to some last ditch defence Irish held him up over the line. 

A huge effort from the Irish pack at the scrum, featuring Geoff Cross at tight-head, then bailed The Exiles out, winning a penalty on the Gloucester put-in allowing Chris Noakes to clear the Irish lines.

With five to go in the first half Greig Laidlaw had a chance to give Gloucester the lead after Irish were found to be collapsing the maul the Cherry and White’s captain stepped up to get a 0 – 3 led in an otherwise uneventful first half.

With ten seconds left on the clock in a first half both sides will want to forget, Irish captain Shane Geraghty had a chance to level the scores from half way. However, the kick fell short and the visitors carried a slender 0 – 3 lead into half time.

The second half started much how the first had finished with both sides making errors. Laidlaw had a chance to extend the lead with a shot at goal after five minutes but struck the post. 

Another penalty from Gloucester moments later gave Laidlaw a second bite at the cherry and this time the visitor’s captain made no mistakes, bringing the score to 0 – 6 with six minutes gone in the second half.

Gloucester extended their lead minutes later with the first try of the game. The Gloucester backs broke away and Henry Purdy had the pace to beat of the cover defence from Irish to slide in at the corner. Laidlaw was unable to add the extras, brining the scores to 0 – 11.

Irish finally got off the mark ten minutes into the second half. With Gloucester deemed offside Shane Geraghty was able to knock over a fairly central penalty and a second moments later bought the scores to 6 – 11 with just over 20 left to play.

However, as the battle of the boot continued between the two sides Laidlaw further extended the lead soon after as Irish were found off side. A Geraghty penalty from 40 meters closed the gap again with the score at 9 – 14.

Irish began to pressure the Gloucester defence. Three consecutive penalties saw them go for the corner and on all three times Gloucester repelled them. Eventually Matt Kvesic won a penalty at the break down, allowing Gloucester to clear their lines.

Gloucester all but sealed the win with six minutes to play. A well-placed stabbed kick from James Hook bounced through fortuitously to find full-back Steve McColl who dotted it down in the corner. Laidlaw converted to make it 9 – 21. 

Gloucester were reduced to 14 men as Tom Savage was sent to the bin for a late hit on Shane Geraghty, giving Irish a chance to go for the corner. However, Gloucester stole the ball and Laidlaw cleared his lines. 

The final play saw Irish fighting to the last but Gloucester were able to keep the ball tight in their own 22, running down the clock until the final whistle was blown, ending with a final score of 9 – 21.

Next week sees a return of the European Challenge Cup and for London Irish a trip to Cardiff to face the Blues.

Score Sequence (London Irish first): 0-3, 0-6, 0-11, 3-11, 6-11, 6-14, 9-14, 9-21

Scorers: London Irish: Penalties: Geraghty (51, 57, 62); Gloucester: Penalties: Laidlaw (35, 45, 59); Tries: Purdy (48); McColl (74); Conversion: Laidlaw 

London Irish

15. Tom Homer; 14. Alex Lewington; 13. Fergus Mulchrone; 12. Shane Geraghty (Captain); 11. James Short; 10. Chris Noakes (rep: Eoin Griffin, 44); 9. Scott Steele (rep: Darren Allinson, 49); 1. Tom Court; 2. David Paice; 3. Geoff Cross (rep: Halani Aulika, 49, rep: Leo Halavatau, 75); 4. Sean Cox; 5. Kieran Low (rep: Dan Leo, 49, rep: Conor Gilsenan, 77); 6. Jebb Sinclair; 7. Blair Cowan; 8. Ofisa Treviranus

Replacements: 16. Tom Woolstencroft; 17. Leo Halavatau; 18. Halani Aulika; 19. Dan Leo*; 20. Conor Gilsenan; 21. Darren Allinson; 22. Eoin Griffin; 23. Topsy Ojo

Gloucester Rugby

15. Steve McColl; 14. Charlie Sharples; 13. Billy Meakes; 12. Mark Atkinson; 11.Henry Purdy; 10. James Hook; 9.Greig Laidlaw (Captain); 1. Yann Thomas; 2. Richard Hibbard (rep: Aleki Lutui, 52); 3. John Afoa; 4. Tom Savage; 5.Tom Palmer (rep: Elliot Stooke, 71); 6. Sione Kalamafoni; 7. Matt Kvesic; 8. Gareth Evans (rep: Ross Moriarty, 61)

Replacements: 16. Aleki Lutui; 17. James Gibbons; 18. Sila Puafisi; 19. Elliott Stooke; 20. Ross Moriarty; 21. Callum Braley; 22. Billy Burns; 23. Shane Monahan

Referee: Matt Carley

Attendance: 5907

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