The Exiles ran out 14-47 winners at The Sportsground in a confident performance ahead of the season opener next weekend.
London Irish are set to travel to Worcester Warriors next Saturday, and set themselves up nicely for the Gallagher Premiership Round 1 clash, scoring seven tries in the process.
The Exiles got off to fast start, with Agustin Creevy forcing his way over from short range. The hooker placed himself perfectly at the back of a rolling maul that couldn’t be stopped, allowing the Argentina international to get over the try line. Paddy Jackson added the conversion and Irish led 0-7 after 3 minutes.
Connacht then quickly picked themselves up and broke the Exiles’ defensive line, sprinting towards the try line. However, Tom Parton chopped the attacker down, preventing a certain score.
This got the hosts’ tails up, and for the next 10 minutes, Irish were forced to soak up pressure in their own 22m. A grubber kick through set Connacht on a race to touch the ball down over the Exiles’ try line, but, once again, Parton was there to prevent it. The fullback sped ahead of the Connacht chasers to save the visitors from conceding.
On 27 minutes, Irish got their second try through Ben Donnell. The presence of Albert Tuisue drew in the defenders, providing a gap for Donnell to stride through. The flanker ran in from 20 metres out, providing Jackson with an easy conversion and moving the Irish lead to 0-14.
Just after the half hour mark, Irish went over for their third try. Ollie Hassell-Collins broke in the midfield, taking play deep in the Connacht 22m. From that platform, the Exiles recycled the ball, went wide to Parton and the fullback clinically finished off the move in corner.
Just four minutes later, Parton had his second try of the game, and Irish’s fourth. Jackson started it off with a quick break and linked with Hassell-Collins, who then sent the ball wide for Parton to slide over again. The conversion was added, and Irish led 0-26 at the half-term break.
The second half saw a new look team take the field, with Declan Kidney ringing the changes to bring 14 new players to the pitch.
Connacht were the quicker out of the blocks, scoring thanks to a positive carry that took them over the try line. The conversion was successful, and Irish’s lead was cut to 7-26.
The Exiles’ response quickly came thanks to Senior Academy member, Alex Harmes. The winger bided his time before getting on the end of some quick hands. Harmes set off down the touchline and couldn’t be stopped as he dived over for five points. Rory Jennings’ sweetly struck conversion sailed over from the touchline, and the lead was 7-33.
New boys Mike Willemse and Ben White were busy in the opening stages of their outing, both showing their potential in a London Irish jersey.
Matt Williams’ time out with an injury had passed 12 months when he made his comeback appearance after half-time. The centre was quick to add to a memorable day, scoring off the back of a Sean O’Brien break. A brilliant moment for the Academy graduate.
Jennings was again on the money from the tee, and Irish moved into a 7-40 advantage.
Connacht, to their credit, didn’t halt their efforts and on 59 minutes they were rewarded. A clever crossfield kick was dotted down and, after the successful conversion, the score was 14-40.
James Stokes was next to get in on the try-scoring action. The fullback took a hard crash-ball line and forced his way into the Connacht end-goal area. Jennings added the final points of the contest with the boot, and Irish ran out 14-47 winners.
Score sequence (London Irish second): 0-5, 0-7, 0-12, 0-14, 0-19, 0-24, 0-26, 5-26, 7-26, 7-31, 7-33, 7-38, 7-40, 12-40, 14-40, 14-45, 14-47
Connacht: Tries: Prendergast (42) Sullivan (59); Conversions: Carty (43 (60)
London Irish: Tries: Creevy (3), Donnell (27) Parton (34) (38) Harmes (48) Williams (55) Stokes (71) Conversions: Jackson (4) (28) (39) Jennings (49) (56) (72)
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Diarmuid Kilgallen, 13 Shayne Bolton, 12 Tom Daly, 11 John Porch, 10 Jack Carty (c), 9 Kieran Marmion, 1 Jordan Duggan, 2 Shane Delahunt, 3 Jack Aungier, 4 Oisin Dowling, 5 Ultan Dillane, 6 Cian Prendergast, 7 Conor Oliver, 8 Paul Boyle.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Niall Murphy, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Ciaran Booth, 22 Jarrad Butler, 23 Colm Reilly, 24 Conor Fitzgerald, 25 Sammy Arnold, 26 Ben O’Donnell, 27 Peter Sullivan, 28 Oran McNulty.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton (40 mins James Stokes), 14 Kyle Rowe (40 mins Cillian Redmond – 76 Theo Smerdon) 13 Curtis Rona (40 mins Matt Williams), 12 Terrence Hepetema (40 mins Phil Cokanasiga), 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins (40 mins Alex Harmes – 76 Caolan Englefield), 10 Paddy Jackson (40 mins Rory Jennings), 9 Nick Phipps (40 mins Ben White – 72 Hugh O;’Sullivan), 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke (40 mins Allan Dell), 2 Agustin Creevy (28 mins Mike Willemse – 54 mins Matt Cornish), 3 Marcel van der Merwe (40 mins Ollie Hoskins – 72 mins Jamie Dever), 4 Rob Simmons (40 mins George Nott), 5 Adam Coleman (40 mins Jack Cooke), 6 Matt Rogerson (40 mins Tom Pearson) (c), 7 Ben Donnell (40 mins Sean O’Brien, 72mins Josh Smart), 8 Albert Tuisue (40 mins Isaac Curtis-Harris – 76 Izzy Moore-Aiono).
Replacements (1-15 jerseys worn) 15 James Stokes, 14 Cillian Redmond, 13 Matt Williams, 12 Phil Cokanasiga, 11 Alex Harmes, 10 Rory Jennings, 9 Ben White, 1 Allan Dell, 2 Mike Willemse, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 4 George Nott, 5 Jack Cooke, 6 Tom Pearson, 7 Sean O’Brien, 8 Isaac Curtis-Harris
16 Matt Cornish, 17 Jamie Dever, 18 Josh Smart, 19 Izzy Moore-Aiono, 20 Hugh O’Sullivan, 21 Caolan Englefield, 22 Theo Smerdon.