London Irish began their play-off campaign in emphatic fashion with a 35-3 victory at Doncaster Knights in the Greene King IPA Championship Play-off Semi-final first leg.
The Exiles, who were relentless throughout the contest, return to the Madejski Stadium next Saturday for the second leg looking to book their place in the showpiece final.
Tries from David Paice (2), Aseli Tikoirotuma (2), Alex Lewington and Sebastian De Chaves secured an impressive triumph for Nick Kennedy’s men in what was a high octane match.
The television match official was called into action as early as the eighth minute when Dougie Flockhart’s try was ruled out. Simon Humberstone’s cross-field kick took a wicked bounce in front of Exiles’ scrum-half Brendan McKibbin, but Flockhart was unable to touchdown before the dead ball line.
A welcome reprieve, Irish responded with a try in the shape of Paice on 12 minutes. Electing to kick to the corner in favour of three points, Irish’s ambition was rewarded as man of the match Blair Cowan gathered clean ball at the lineout to set the platform for Paice to dot down. Tommy Bell was unable to master the blustery conditions with the conversion, however it was first blood to the visitors at 5-0.
Irish doubled their tally for the day on 24 minutes thanks to Fijian international Aseli Tikoirotuma. Ofisa Treviranus’ explosive carry unhinged Doncaster’s backline, before he offloaded to the supporting Tikoirotuma on the charge.
Doncaster cut the deficit to 10-3 on the stroke of half-time, Flockart slotting home a simple penalty after Irish were penalised for an infringement at the scrum.
Irish began the second half superbly, with winger Lewington sprinting in under the posts on 43 minutes. McKibbin was the catalyst for the score, the Australian collecting a high kick to unleash Mulchrone through the middle, who in turn found Lewington for a clear run to the line. Bell added the extras to increase Irish’s lead to 17-3.
Growing in confidence, Irish’s expertise at the lineout came to the fore yet again as Paice added the final touches to a dominant maul to bag his brace.
Irish pushed home their advantage with further scores from Bell’s boot, the brute strength of De Chaves and a second try from Tikoirotuma. A constant threat alongside Mulchrone at centre, Tikoirotuma punctured another hole in the Knights’ backline to score.
The time is now - the Play-off Semi-final, London Irish v Doncaster Knights on Saturday 6 May. Tickets from just £15 for adults and £2 for children from www.lidirect.co.uk or 0118 968 1016.
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Bulumakau, Hayes, Lewis, Humberstone, Heaney, List, Hunter, Quigley, Challinor, Young, Shaw, Hills, Carpenter
London Irish: Bell (Tonks, 68), Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Fergus Mulchrone, Cokanasiga, Marshall, McKibbin (Steele, 62), Hobbs-Awoyemi (Court, 57), Paice (c) (Porecki, 68), Franks (Hoskins, 75), De Chaves (Robson, 63), Sinclair (De Chaves, 70), Coman (Gilsenan, 57), Cowan, Treviranus
Sin-bin: Carpenter 50, Jarvis 60
Tries: Paice (2), Tikoirotuma (2), Lewington, De Chaves
Referee: Luke Pearce