London Irish announced their return to the Aviva Premiership in dramatic style with a last gasp 39-29 bonus point victory over Harlequins at Twickenham.
Brendan McKibbin’s try in the dying embers of the contest capped off a fine display from the men in green, who looked menacing in attack from the very first whistle.
The second of two games to take place at the home of English rugby, Irish versus Quins certainly lived up to its billing.
With the score poised at 6-3 to Irish midway through the first half, Topsy Ojo crossed for the Exiles’ first try of the Premiership season. The club record try scorer collected a neat cross-field kick from James Marshall, before racing clear of Marland Yarde to feed the supporting Fergus Mulchrone. The centre then returned the pass to Ojo, who dived over. Tommy Bell’s conversion made it 13-3 to Irish.
Nick Kennedy’s charges extended their advantage on 31 minutes through the impressive Bell, the former Leicester Tigers fly-half scything past a despairing Mike Brown after receiving an audacious Blair Cowan offload.
Joe Marchant got Quins back into the game on 35 minutes, ably assisted by Jamie Roberts on his way to the try line. Smith’s conversion cut the gap to 18-10.
Bell and Quins’ Marcus Smith traded penalties just before the break with Irish taking a handsome 21-10 lead into half-time.
Irish began the second period in much the same way as they did in the first, with Bell adding more points with the boot on 52 minutes to make it 24-10.
Quins were dealt a further blow on 54 minutes when Demetri Catrakilis was yellow carded and the Exiles took full advantage by virtue of an Ofisa Treviranus try. The giant Samoan back row hit an excellent line off McKibbin to marauder his way to the whitewash for a 29-10 lead.
Irish had to endure a tense finish to the game however, Yarde, Danny Care and Charlie Walker all crossing for Quins as they looked to snatch victory. Despite facing a barrage of Quins pressure, the Exiles held their nerve to see out the game thanks to McKibbin’s dash to the line.
Exiles’ boss Kennedy takes his side to Exeter Chiefs next Saturday, before a trip to Sale Sharks the following week. The first game of the Premiership season to take place at the Madejski Stadium is against Northampton Saints on Sunday 24 September (kick-off 3pm).
Be part of the London Irish family with a 2017/18 Season Membership. Great value from £295 for adults and under 13s are free for 18 home games and so much more. Visit www.london-irish.com/membership or call 0118 968 1016 to find out more.
London Irish: Bell; Lewington, Hearn, Mulchrone, Ojo; Marshall, Steele; Hobbs-Awoyemi, Paice (capt), Du Plessis, van der Merwe, De Chaves, Coman, Cowan, Treviranus.
Replacements: Porecki, Reid, Franks, McNally, Gilsenan, McKibbin, Tonks, Tikoirotuma.
Harlequins: Brown; Yarde, Marchant, Roberts, Walker; Smith, Care; Marler, Buchanan, Collier, Glynn, Horwill (capt), Robshaw, Ward, Clifford.
Replacements: Gray, Lambert, Sinckler, Merrick, Luamanu, Mulchrone, Catrakilis, Stanley.
London Irish (21) 39
Tries: Ojo, Bell, Treviranus, McKibbin Cons: Bell 2 Pens: Bell 5
Harlequins (10) 29
Tries: Marchant, Yarde, Care, Walker Cons: Smith, Catrakilis 2 Pen: Smith