31 March 2022
Fixture: London Irish v Harlequins
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 22
Date: Sunday 3rd April 2022
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
Declan Kidney’s London Irish host west London rivals Harlequins in Round 22 of the Gallagher Premiership at the Brentford Community Stadium this Sunday.
The Famous Quarters, only making the short trip to the BCS two weeks previously, had their Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final hopes quashed in a 34-19 defeat to Irish under the Friday Night Lights.
London Irish have won four of their last five Premiership home games, with the most recent 31-point win against Worcester Warriors the largest in the Premiership since a 50-12 win over London Welsh in February 2015.
The Exiles nevertheless remain 10 points adrift of Tabai Matson’s men in the Premiership standings, with Harlequins building momentum on a four-game Premiership winning streak in hopes of retaining the league title.
Quins overturned Bristol Bears by 38 points to 29 in Round 20 and benefitted from a bye week last weekend, whilst Irish are coming off a home defeat to Northampton Saints.
Alongside Irish’s home win in the cup, a trip to The Stoop back in November extended a four-game unbeaten run on Quins home turf in a 22-19 win.
A match over at the national stadium was indeed Irish’s last home league win against Harlequins back in 2017, kicking off the 2017/18 season with a bonus-point triumph at the London Double Header.
The boss- Tabai Matson:
The former Canterbury, CA Brive and London Irish centre arrived in west London once again to take the mantle at Harlequins after their Premiership title success last year.
Matson took charge after a spell coaching the ‘Baby Blacks’, or New Zealand U20s side, to head the all star cast of coaches that includes Jerry Flannery, Adam Jones and Nick Evans.
His coaching background includes spells at Super Rugby outfits Chiefs and Crusaders, an ITM Cup leading Canterbury, and a season at Bath Rugby under Todd Blackadder.
Capped by both Fiji and New Zealand, Matson represented his country of birth at the 1999 Rugby World Cup before a spell with Irish two years later.
One to Watch- Cadan Murley:
Having recently re-signed with Harlequins on a long-term contract in the new year, Academy product Cadan Murley has already exceeded his appearances per season record this year and continues to grow with his electric set-up at The Stoop.
Murley has amassed five tries in his last four appearances, including his second and third braces of the season against Newcastle Falcons and Bristol Bears respectively, to take his total in the league to 10.
In just 34 minutes at Ashton Gate, the 22-year-old averaged 15.5 metres per carry and registered seven tackles with his 10 points proving vital in the outcome of the entertaining match.
With his versatility to play across the back three and into midfield a laudable attribute, Murley was signed to the Senior Academy in 2017/18 and has since gone on to score three tries in six appearances against Irish.
Exile Ollie Hassell-Collins and Murley lead the division in clean breaks made in the Premiership (18 each); also partnering each other in the top five metres made of any Premiership player (1336 to Hassell-Collins’ 1436 metres).
Classic Encounter: London Irish 18-13 Harlequins - 5th October 2013 - Aviva Premiership
The last time Harlequins travelled to face London Irish after earning silverware the season previous, the Exiles condemned them to their third loss in their opening five matches of the 2013/14 season.
Conor O’Shea’s side were behind after a Shane Geraghty penalty but quickly levelled through Nick Evans, with the fly-half pairing adding another each before the break.
Alongside Ben Botica, Evans was unable to maintain his kicking consistency and Irish gleefully took hold of the match through a converted Blair Cowan try, his first for the Boys in Green.
From the restart Irish were in again as Topsy Ojo found Alex Lewington to finish for another novel score, this time for the young flyer, with Danny Care’s try bringing Quins home with a losing bonus point.
Tries: Blair Cowan, Alex Lewington
Conversions: Shane Geraghty
Penalties: Shane Geraghty (2)
Tries: Danny Care
Conversions: Nick Evans
Penalties: Nick Evans (2)
Speaking at the Harlequins Supporter Update Meeting ahead of Sunday’s clash, Head Coach Tabai Matson commented on the philosophy of ensuring Academy representation in the Harlequins matchday squad.
“Last night against Sale Sharks was an amazingly enjoyable game, but one of the main reasons the coaching group enjoyed it was that we were seeing the future of Quins,” Matson declared.
“We have an exciting remit because of the salary cap and we have to expose more young guys next year.
“Next year you will see a lot of those guys running with the same endeavour and intent, the true Quins way of having a go from your own goal line.
“If you give them a chance, they very rarely let you down- every time someone steps onto the pitch they give you everything, which is all you can ask.”