London Irish got their Championship Cup campaign up and running with a 35-7 bonus-point victory at Hartpury RFC.
A brace from former Wallaby Saia Fainga’a as well as further scores from Brendan McKibbin, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi and Tom Fowlie secured the spoils for Declan Kidney’s men, who now turn their attention to next week’s Round 2 fixture at home to Cornish Pirates.
With the rain lashing down at kick-off, both sides had to quickly adjust to the biblical conditions and it was Irish who registered the first score four minutes into the contest. Fainga’a was the beneficiary from a well-executed lineout as he flopped over from close range on the back of excellent work from the Irish heavies. Stephen Myler, who kicked all five of his conversions, gave the Exiles the advantage at 7-0.
Hartpury restored parity midway through the first half, scrum-half Harry Cochrane hacking on a kick down field before beating Napolioni Nalaga in a foot race to slide in under the posts. Sam Leeming added the extras for 7-7.
The Gloucestershire outfit stood firm to heavy Irish pressure in the immediate aftermath, however Irish hit their hosts with a quick-fire brace before the break through Fainga’a and McKibbin.
First, Fainga’a dotted down for his second try of the afternoon on 32 minutes with a carbon copy of his first effort and six minutes later McKibbin sniped his way to the line in trademark fashion. Myler converted both scores to give the Exiles a 21-7 interval lead.
With the hour mark looming, Hobbs-Awoyemi left a series of Hartpury defenders in his wake to cross the whitewash for try number four following a period of sustained pressure. Again, Myler’s expert boot kept the scoreline ticking over.
Centre Tom Fowlie put the icing on the cake with the last play of the match, hitting a neat line to touchdown under the posts with Myler converting to make it 35-7.
London Irish’s next home game is against Cornish Pirates in Round 2 of the Championship Cup, with tickets available by calling 0118 968 1016 or purchase online at ticketing.londonirish.net .
Tries: Cochrane (21)
Cons: Leeming (21)
Tries: Fainga’a (4) (32), McKibbin (38), Hobbs-Awoyemi (60), Fowlie (80)
Cons: Myler (4) (32) (39) (60) (80)
Hartpury RFC: 15 Jack Johnson, 14 Robert Smith, 13 Jack Reeves, 12 Connor Edwards, 11 Edward Sheldon, 10 Samuel Leeming, 9 Harry Cochrane, 1 Michael Flook, 2 Luke Stratford, 3 Rupert Harden, 4 John Hawkins, 5 Simon Lindell, 6 Joseph Batley, 7 Thomas Pashley, 8 Harry Wilson
Replacements: 16 William Crane, 17 Des Merrey, 18 Alexander Gibson, 19 Harry Butler, 20 Samuel Graham, 21 Nathan Chamberlain, 22 Toby Venner
London Irish: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Ollie Hassell-Collins (Matt Williams, 68), 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Theo Brophy Clews (Jacob Atkins, 68), 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Brendan McKibbin (c) (Scott Steele, 65), 1 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 2 Saia Fainga’a (Dave Porecki, 60), 3 Lovejoy Chawatama (Ollie Hoskins, 60), 4 Barney Maddison (Jack Cooke, 70), 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 6 Conor Gilsenan (Jake Schatz, 58), 7 Max Northcote-Green, 8 Matt Rogerson
Replacements: 16 Dave Porecki, 17 Ollie Hoskins, 18 Jake Schatz, 19 Jack Cooke, 20 Scott Steele, 21 Jacob Atkins, 22 Matt Williams