Harlequins 26, London Irish 30

It was action under the Wednesday night lights for the latest London derby clash between Harlequins and London Irish, as the two sides battled it out in Round 1 of the Premiership Rugby Cup.

It was the Exiles who dented the scoreboard first, debutant Patrick Harrison shoving his way over the try line from the back of a rolling maul. A penalty in the middle of the pitch gave Rory Jennings the chance to kick to the corner, and the forward pack did the rest. Jennings’ conversion effort was missed, but Irish took an early 0-5 lead.

It wasn’t long before the Exiles grabbed their second of the night. Italy international Luca Morisi burst down the wing before passing inside to Michael Dykes and the winger sprinted 20 metres to dot down. This time, Jennings’ conversion sailed through, and the fly-half extended the lead to 0-12.

With 10 minutes on the clock, Hugh O’Sullivan got his turn to slide over for five points. Jennings made the initial break to take Irish into the visitors’ 22m, before a neat offload from the floor to O’Sullivan, with the latter strolling to the line. The conversion was missed, but the 0-17 scoreboard reflected what was an impressive opening 10 minutes for the young Exiles side.

Harlequins then threatened through Cassius Cleaves, but a brave last-ditch tackle from full-back Logan Trotter halted the attack, with Irish winning a scrum following a knock on.

The hosts enjoyed a substantial amount of time with the ball in hand and started to apply pressure on the Exiles’ try line. But, to their credit, the Irish defence held firm to prevent Harlequins getting their first points of the game.  

However, some minutes later, the pressure eventually rewarded Harlequins with their first try of the evening as Jonny Green powered over from close range. After Will Edwards’ successful conversion, the deficit was cut to 7-17.

A handful of tightly contested phases of plays then followed, but at the half-time whistle it remained 7-17 in London Irish’s favour.

Like in the first half, it was Irish who were the first team to register points in the second half. A penalty in front of the posts was popped through by Jennings to extend the Exiles’ lead by three after Harlequins were penalised for not rolling away from a tackle.

The first try of the second half went to Will Edwards after some quick feet from the Harlequins’ fly-half. Edwards converted his own try to cut the lead to 14-20.

Irish were quick to respond with their fourth and bonus point try! Ben Atkins broke down the wing before passing inside to Trotter. The full-back delayed his 2 v 1 pass to perfection and Harmes fended off the last covering defender to slide over. After the successful conversion, Irish’s lead was pushed to 14-27.

Strong running from Trotter and Tom Hitchcock pushed Irish close to the Harlequins try line, but the hosts slowed down the play illegally. Jennings slotted the resulting penalty through the uprights and the Exiles led 14-30 with 18 minutes to play.

Only a matter of moments later, Sam Riley score in the corner for the hosts. The replacement hooker slipped off from a rolling maul to touch down close to the whitewash. The conversion was missed, so the lead was cut to 19-30.

Irish were then caught on the back foot just minutes later, with the hosts reacting quicker to an unclaimed highball. Cleaves was the man to grab the loose ball and sprinted clear to score. The conversion was made, and, in a flash, the lead was reduced to a four-point gap.

With 10 minutes to go, the game was hanging in the balance.

Quins pressured in the Exiles’ half, but Hitchcock sniped in midfield to intercept and sprint off into the hosts’ 22m. The resulting pass was gathered by Harlequins, but, importantly, it relieved pressure.

Irish secured the victory after a knock on from Quins allowed Hugh O’Sullivan to punt the ball gently into the stands and bring a close to what was a frenetic 80 minutes of Premiership Rugby Cup action!

Score sequence (London Irish second): 0-5, 0-12, 0-17, 7-17, 7-20, 14-20, 14-27, 14-30, 19-30, 26-30

Harlequins: Tries: Green (31) Edwards (53) Riley (65) Cleaves (68) Conversions: Edwards (32) (54) (68)

London Irish: Tries: Harrison (5), Dykes (7), O’Sullivan (10), Harmes (56) Conversions: Jennings (8), (57) Penalties: Jennings (46), (62),

15 Connor Slevin, 14 Ross Chisholm, 13 Hayden Hyde (Benson, 33), 12 Bryn Bradley, 11 Cassius Cleaves, 10 Will Edwards, 9 Jack Stafford, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta (Fin Baxter, 53), 2 Jack Musk (Sam riley, 53), 3 Rhys Litterick (Will Hobson, 53), 4 Charlie Matthews (c), 5 Jonny Green, 6 Zach Carr (Smith, 60), 7 Will Trenholm, 8 Viliami Taulani.

16 Sam Riley, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Will Hobson, 19 Tom Golder, 20 Jonny Smith, 21 Jake Murray, 22 Jamie Benson, 23 Conor Oresanya.

London Irish:
15 Logan Trotter, 14 Alex Harmes (Walsh, 60), 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Tom Hitchcock, 11 Michael Dykes (Bradbury, 62), 10 Rory Jennings, 9 Hugh O’Sullivan, 1 Tarek Haffar (Parker, 62), 2 Patrick Harrison (Scott, 62), 3 Mikey Summerfield (Fasogbon, 76), 4 Ed Scragg (Chapman, 66) , 5 Chunya Munga, 6 Jack Cooke (c), 7 Isaac Curtis-Harris (Moore-Aiono, 57), 8 Ben Atkins.

16 Calum Scott, 17 Jamie Jack, 18 Afo Fasogbon, 19 Hallam Chapman, 20 Izaiha Moore-Aiono, 21 Ollie Allan, 22 Monty Bradbury, 23 Jack Walsh.

Referee: Mr Joe James


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