London Irish began their assault on the British and Irish Cup with an emphatic 25-14 bonus-point victory over an Ospreys Premiership Select in Neath.
Tries from Ross Neal, Ben Ransom, Senitiki Nayalo and Richard Palframan ensured Nick Kennedy’s men left South Wales with maximum points to stretch their winning run to seven out of seven for the season.
A squad containing nine Academy products showed a cutting edge in attack coupled with a steely defensive resistance to bring home the spoils in torrential conditions.
Irish gained the early initiative, Neal crossing for the opening try on six minutes after charging down a clearance kick. Greig Tonks was unable to convert from the touchline, but Irish led 5-0. It was just reward for a bright start to the contest and this appeared to be the catalyst for the visitors to kick-on.
The Exiles, keen to press home their physicality in the pack, created a flurry of clear-cut openings in the minutes that followed the try. First, stand in skipper Conor Gilsenan broke the line at speed, before Cokanasiga underlined his sheer brute strength moments later when he left four defenders in his wake during a 30 metre run.
With the half hour mark looming, Irish extended their lead through Ransom, the former Saracens man demonstrating his intelligence by coasting through a gap to score after collecting the ball on half-way. Tonks’ simple conversion from bang in front of goal made it 12-0. The Ospreys to their credit reacted in positive fashion and exerted a period of sustained pressure on the Exiles’ try-line. Irish stood firm to a series of Ospreys attacks, but on the stroke of half-time the hosts were rewarded for their endeavour when Keiran Williams crashed over. Williams ran a neat line to force his way over and Luke Price added the extras to close the gap to 12-7 at the break.
With the rain lashing down, the conditions worsened throughout the course of the second half. However, this did not hamper Irish’s appetite to secure the try bonus point as a 48th minute Nayalo score and a Palframan touch down with the last play of the contest sealed the deal.
Proving to be one of the most effective tools for Irish this term, the rolling maul yielded the Exiles’ third try of the afternoon courtesy of debutant Nayalo. Tonks’ conversion made it 17-7.
On 55 minutes the boot of Tonks edged Irish further ahead when Irish were awarded a penalty at the breakdown. The game began to become error strewn with both sides finding the slippery conditions difficult to contend with. With 10 minutes remaining former Exile Rob McCusker squeezed over from a driving lineout. Price’s superb touchline conversion reduced the arrears to 20-14.
Whilst the Ospreys looked to capitalise on their late resurgence, it was Irish who had the last say with a try at the death through Palframan which sealed the bonus-point. Tonks was unable to convert, but it pailed into insignificance as Irish continued the winning feeling with their seventh win out of seven.
Tries: Keiran Williams, McCusker
Cons: Price (2)
Tries: Neal, Ransom, Nayalo, Palframan
Ospreys Select XV: 15 Morgan Williams, 14 Tom Williams, 13 Joe Thomas, 12 Keiran Williams (Rheon James, 66), 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Luke Price, 9 Matt Aubrey, 1 Rowan Jenkins, 2 Huw Gustafson (Alex Dunham, 72), 3 Dan Suter (Alex Jeffries, 40), 4 Jon Kenny, 5 James Ratti, 6 Charlie Davies, 7 Joe Tomalin-Reeves, 8 Rob McCusker (c)
Replacements: 16 Alex Dunham, 17 Alex Jeffries, 18 Mitchell Walsh, 19 Will Jones, 20 Chris Williams, 21 Phil Jones, 22 Rheon James
London Irish: 15 Ben Ransom (Matt Williams, 57), 14 Tom Parton (Jacob Atkins, 70), 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Ross Neal, 11 Joe Cokanasiga, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Darren Allinson (Conor Murphy, 57), 1 Harry Elrington, 2 Todd Gleave, 3 Ollie Hoskins (Richard Palframan, 50), 4 Will Lloyd, 5 Jerry Sexton, 6 Max Northcote-Green (Jack Cooke, 57), 7 Conor Gilsenan (c), 8 Senitiki Nayalo
Replacements: 16 David Paice, 17 Richard Palframan, 18 Jack Cooke, 19 Mike Coman, 20 Conor Murphy, 21 Jacob Atkins, 22 Matt Williams