16 March 2022
Fixture: London Irish v Harlequins
Competition: Premiership Rugby Cup, Round 4
Date: Friday 18th March 2022
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
Derby day under the Friday Night Lights is fast approaching as London Irish take on Harlequins in the Premiership Rugby Cup at the Brentford Community Stadium.
Declan Kidney’s men are looking to reinforce their Pool 3 standings against their local rivals, following on from successive bonus-point wins against Northampton Saints and then Saracens.
Irish have only won three consecutive cup games twice since the 2004/05 season, where they reached the semi-final of the Powergen Cup, three seasons after their novel tournament victory in 2002.
Harlequins, who had the same fortune against Northampton this season, were instead undone by Sarries in Round 1 and currently trail the Exiles by four points in Pool 3 ahead of Friday’s clash.
Friday’s visitors are currently on a four-game winning run, but recent history in all competitions has been relatively evenly split between the sides; Quins coming out on top in five of the last 10, Irish in four, combined with a 27-27 draw last year.
Having reached the Premiership Cup final in 2020, Quins’ history with the RFU’s club knockout competition goes back to winning the John Player Cup in 1988 and then the Pilkington Cup in 1991, alongside an LV Cup back in 2014.
The boss- Tabai Matson:
After winning their first Premiership in nine years in dramatic fashion, Harlequins maintained the core of their coaching staff such as Nick Evans and Jerry Flannery, whilst adding Tabai Matson as their Head Coach.
The former London Irish centre, who described it as a “privilege” to be coached by Dick Best back in the Sunbury days, took the reins of the current Premiership champions this summer, arriving following on from coaching the New Zealand U20s.
Matson also plied his trade with Canterbury at provincial level, Crusaders, where he won the Super Rugby 12 in 1998, Top14 side Brive and Yamaha Júbilo, where he finished his playing days and started his coaching career.
The former Fijian and New Zealand international would go on to coach both Canterbury and Crusaders, attaining his first Premiership coaching job with Bath back in 2016.
One to Watch- Lennox Anyanwu:
Anyanwu has played the full 160 minutes of the Premiership Rugby Cup this season at inside centre after making his debut against Bristol Bears in the Premiership last season.
The 21-year-old scored a brace of tries in Quins’ Round 2 win against Northampton Saints, the second of which kick-started his side’s turnaround against Chris Boyd’s men to keep them in with a shout of knockout cup rugby.
Following in the footsteps of Louis Lynagh before him, Anyanwu is dual-registered with Richmond Rugby and has been in good form with his loan club, touching down for his second try of the season in their 20-12 win over Hartpury University last weekend.
He became the fifth Academy player to sign a new contract with Harlequins this season, a Club that he joined at the tender age of 12.
Classic Encounter: Harlequins 27-28 London Irish - 27th September 2008 - Guinness Premiership
Delon Armitage and Peter Hewat anchored a comeback for the ages for London Irish away to Harlequins, with the Exiles trailing by 12 points at the break to win by a solitary point.
Ugo Monye, Tom Guest and Chris Malone’s accurate boot halted any Irish advancements after Hewat’s opening penalty within a minute of play, but crucially, the Australian set up Armitage with kicks into space from a loose ball for the former to recover and touch down.
Nonetheless, Irish had it all to do after the interval- but Hewat added another three points before Armitage’s second, with the full-back going over himself after intercepting Chris Robshaw’s pass.
Danny Care’s late score undeterred Irish at The Stoop as Toby Booth’s men held on despite Quins’ late advancements.
Tries: Ugo Monye, Tom Guest, Danny Care
Conversions: Chris Malone (2), Waisea Luveniyali
Penalties: Chris Malone (2)
Tries: Delon Armitage (2), Peter Hewat
Conversions: Peter Hewat (2)
Penalties: Peter Hewat (3)
Harlequins Lineout and Defence Coach Jerry Flannery outlined the effort required from his team to broker the challenge of Bristol Bears’ attacking flair, particularly being a man down to eventually win 38-29.
"It was a great game and we are fortunate to come out on the right side of the result as Bristol, under Pat Lam, do not deviate away from their belief in attacking rugby,” Flannery commended.
"When we lost Danny Care to a yellow card, we knew we had to make that period more set-piece orientated and I thought we managed his absence very well.”
Quins conceded only seven of 29 points in Care’s temporary absence that afternoon, which was enacted due to a professional foul, but Flannery acknowledges the role of safety in the modern game.
"The game is evolving to make it safer, so yellow and red cards are playing a bigger part in the outcome and no-one wants to lose players so there is a big focus on dropping down to tackle.
"It's been more challenging this year than last as we have had to try and learn to cope with the loss of some key players to the Six Nations."