With the biting conditions taking their toll on rugby up and down the country, a reduced complement of loan players from the London Irish Academy were in action over the past weekend.

Loan time

One of three Championship games taking place saw Richmond employ the services of third-year hooker Joe Vajner in their battle in the Midlands against Coventry.

Vajner started as he meant to go on, again touching down off the back of a maul and going on to play 50 minutes in what turned out to be a defeat for the south-west Londoners at Butts Park Arena.

The 20-year-old held his own without possession of the ball, winning a jackal turnover and carrying strongly with the tie finishing 48-12 in favour of the home outfit with Richmond now in ninth.

In National League Two East, George Makepeace-Cubitt (full-back) and Louis Kirkham (back-row) pulled on the Barnes shirt for a home encounter against Guernsey at an alternative venue of nearby Rosslyn Park.

The full-back contributed six points from three conversion kicks in a 26-14 victory for Barnes, Makepeace-Cubitt playing out the full 80 with plenty of attacking intent with ball in hand also.

Louis Kirkham’s involvement also extended into the fourth quarter before a 75th minute substitution, putting in a consistent performance in his tackling and with ball in hand as a number eight.

Barnes now sit second in the division, trailing only Blackheath by four points after 13 games.

Oran Murphy (prop) played an hour for Barnes’ second side, playing at loosehead prop in a highly entertaining 33-43 reverse at Barn Elms Sports Fields in Division 1 of the HALBRO Raging Bull Shield.

Academy representation in Europe

Six Academy graduates, alongside current second-year Senior Academy back-row Chandler Cunningham-South, played their part in London Irish’s first two Heineken Champions Cup fixtures in a decade.

Ollie Hassell-Collins, Will Joseph, Ben Loader and Cunningham-South, lined up in both games against Montpellier Hérault and DHL Stormers.

Chunya Munga took on the Top 14 champions in a cameo off the bench at the Gtech Community Stadium, whilst loose forward talents Josh Basham and Tom Pearson earned appearances in Cape Town.  

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