20 January 2018
London Irish finished the European Rugby Challenge Cup pool stages with back to back wins over Krasny Yar with a bonus point victory in the Georgian capital, Tblisi.
The victory moved the Exiles into second place in pool 4 waiting on results in other pools to see if they would progress to the knock-out stages in one of the best runners-up spots.
Lasha Malaguradze got the first points on the board for Krasny Yar after three minutes but Irish struck back on nine minutes when Will Lloyd took the ball in a lineout metres from the try line, the ball was spun out to the backs and Matt Williams went over for the score. Jacob Atkins added the extras.
A knock-on halted the Exiles as they tried to attack from their own half, Krasny were awarded a scrum and went through the phases trying to puncture the London Irish defence. A Krasny lineout on the Irish 22 gave the opposition forwards the chance to make some yards towards the try line until pressure from the Irish defence looked like it had forced the ball out of the Russians' hands. The ball was knocked backwards and Krasny retained possession during a break in play while Max Northcote-Green received treatment. Northcote-Green was sent back into defence as the Russian pressure continued until Viktor Arhip bundled over for a try with Malaguradze adding the extras.
The Exiles looked like they might regain the lead just before half-time when Tom Parton sped down the right wing with Northcote-Green showing some impressive pace in support. The ball swept along the Exiles attacking line and Atkins kicked to the corner for David Paice to take the lineout right on half-time metres from the whitewash. A penalty against the Exiles meant that Krasny Yar went into the half-time break with a 10-7 lead.
Some pacey play from the Russians gave them a try three minutes into the second half in the unlikely form of prop Grigory Tsnobiladze who was on the end of an offload which found a gap in the Exiles defence and hit his top speed to make the 15 metres to the try line like a stampeding rhino. Fangatapu Apikotoa took over kicking duties to add the conversion and extend the home side's lead.
Krasny Yar looked like they were about to swiftly add another score to their tally until a knock-on gave the Exiles a defensive scrum in their 22. The resulting scrum penalty gave Atkins the chance to clear to the halfway line and the ball was quickly passed through the backs from the lineout to Joe Cokanasiga who made an impact having recently replaced Tom Parton on the right wing. The play set the Exiles up to shift the ball across to the left wing where Williams made a powerful run before an offload to Paice who popped the ball to Tom Fowlie to cross the whitewash and narrow the gap.
Irish looked lively again as Atkins kicked into the left corner for a lineout within reach of the try line. After finding no way through on the right wing, the backs shifted the ball to the left for Williams to dive over but, after taking a look at the big screen, the referee ruled that the Exiles' centre had been forced into touch. Krasny scrambled to secure the ball from the resulting lineout metres from their try line, clearing to just short of halfway with Ben Loader trying to keep the ball in play before it slipped through his fingers into touch.
Krasny used the resulting lineout to send the Exiles scurrying back in defence but Irish ripped the ball away to secure a turnover followed by a penalty. The resulting scrum led to a scrum penalty for the Exiles which gave Atkins the platform to kick London Irish back into the Krasny Yar 22. Krasny claimed the lineout and made progress towards the Irish 22 until the ball was turned over and Atkins tried to find a gap with a chip and chase. Irish tried to make the yards with a kick to touch which was fielded short of the line by a Krasny player who was bundled over the touchline. A quick lineout gave Irish the advantage and the ball was spun along the backline to the left wing for Fowlie to bag his second try of the game in the 66th minute. Atkins was on target with the conversion to give the Exiles a two point lead.
Krasny tried to come back at the visitors but were forced backwards by the Irish attack infringing to give Atkins the chance to knock the ball into the corner on the left wing. The forwards make the hard yards from the lineout to give the Exiles a platform for some fast ball out to Loader to claim the bonus point try with nine minutes to go.
It seemed like Loader might be in for a second try of the game just on full-time as Cokanasiga punctured the Krasny defence again offloading to Ben Meehan who spotted Loader steaming up on the left wing only to lose the ball forwards in the last play of the game.
Tries: Williams 10, Fowlie 52, 67, Loader 71
Con: Atkins 11, 68
Tries: Arhip 27, G Tsnobiladze 42
Cons: Malaguradze 28, Apikotoa 43
Pens: Malaguradze 3
Krasny Yar: Artemyev (c), Latu (Dorofeev, 60), Pruidze, Malaguradze (Golosnitskiy, 41), Galinovsky, Apikotoa (Ryabov, 73), Iagudin, G Tsnobiladze (Novoselov, 69), Kondakov (V Tsnobiladze, 40), Fukofuka (Tsiklauri. 54), Mahu, Garbuzov (Ilin, 53), Khudiakov, Arhip, Prepelitsa (Gresev, 50)
London Irish: Ransom, Parton (Cokanasiga, 51), Fowlie, Williams, Loader, Atkins (Bell, 73), Steele (Meehan, 53), Elrington (Smallbone, 53), Paice (Woolstencroft, 66), Hoskins (Chawatama, 60), Lloyd, De Chaves (c), Cooke, Northcote-Green (Gilsenan, 69), Basham
Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)