29 January 2023
London Irish achieved their first league win over adversaries Harlequins at the Gtech Community Stadium this afternoon, finishing 42-24 in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership.
It was a dream afternoon for everyone involved at the Club, but most particularly Michael Dykes, who completed a try hattrick on his Premiership debut – only the third player to ever achieve such a feat.
Chandler Cunningham-South continued his London derby form with the opening score and was further complemented by the first two of Dykes’ efforts, furthered only by James Stokes touching down.
Dykes completed his hattrick after the break, followed by the sealing try from Tom Pearson, bashing the Club crest in passionate ecstasy.
Irish started strongly, putting Will Edwards into touch from the kick-off and gaining several penalty advantages in the loose, consequently going for the corner twice.
Second time was the charm for the Exiles, Academy star Chandler Cunningham-South, who loves a derby day try, bundling over from a catch-and-drive maul with Paddy Jackson converting.
Irish didn’t have to wait for a second score, Cunningham-South penetrated through the rearguard from the restart, with Quins’ loose collection of a Jackson up-and-under seeing Irish still maintain possession.
A Ben White snipe preceded a smart inside run from James Stokes, who offloaded to Tom Pearson to then execute a one-handed pass passed to another Academy product, Michael Dykes, who dived over on his first Premiership appearance!
White’s steal from the put-in offered Irish another chance to attack in the first quarter, his side exposing space on the openside of the set-piece but it would ultimately end in Quins earning a penalty.
The Famous Quarters were on the up thereafter nevertheless, always gaining metres in their carries before earning a scrum five metres out following an Irish breakdown infringement.
After the visitors gained the advantage at the put-in, the ball was spread and Dykes denying a clear opportunity for a Quins retort saw the winger spend 10 minutes in the sin bin and Irish’s rivals take a penalty try.
Parity was restored with sharp efficiency, James Stokes building on an excellent personal showing by racing away to the whitewash after a Danny Care box kick was reclaimed by no one but the full-back, Jackson adding his third extras of the afternoon.
In the build-up to the try, however, Quins captain Stephan Lewies illegally cleared out a ruck with a shoulder charge onto the head of Cunningham-South and was rightfully given his marching orders.
In a frenetic opening, Tabai Matson’s men came close to another counter after Irish were pinged for coming in at the side, the former going for touch and then utilising André Esterhuizen as a line breaking avenue to the five-metre line.
A knock-on from Quins denied them this time, but despite solid defensive work from Tom Pearson, the Stoop side were over through Tommy Allan, who couldn’t covert his score.
In search of a try bonus point before the interval, Irish elected to find touch after another Quins penalty and a sizeable mispass from Rory Jennings located the returning Dykes, but he was held up just short of the line.
For approaching the ruck from the side, Irish had a chance to go again but a spill off the back of a lineout ensured the score remained the same.
Captain Matt Rogerson’s excellent industry over the ball in broken field play won his Club a penalty, the Exiles smelling blood and kicking to the corner.
Replacement Api Ratuniyarawa’s solid carry set off a sequence leading the all-important fourth score, the Boys in Green spreading the ball from left to right and back again before finding Irish’s left wing, dotting down with a smart finish close to the touchline.
Welcome to Premiership rugby, Michael Dykes!
Paddy Jackson completed the half with a touchline conversion, a sensational conclusion to a classic opening.
Upon returning from the sheds, a charge down from the Exiles released Jackson and Tom Pearson, combining well before being brought down with Irish’s attacking edge not blunted by the interval.
Irish returned to the 22 and worked with an advantage, giving White license for another of his trademark snipes who was trailed closely by Dykes, who scored a league debut hattrick – incredible scenes at the Gtech!
A turnover won in midfield by Pearson stopped a Quins move forwards, White kicking for a 50:22 with Irish well and truly in a purple patch.
Defence was required of course, holding up the rivals over the line with the Exiles finding it hard to locate an exit out of their 22 until a trademark lineout steal from replacement Juan Martín González, who was accompanied to the field with Henry Arundell.
Quins brought themselves back into the conversation with a breakaway try, set in motion by Esterhuizen and finished off by Josh Bassett, Allan unable to add the extras that hit the post and away.
Harlequins threatened again, but a mishandling in possession was duly collected by Tom Pearson who set Dykes away for a break, ultimately brought down and jackalled back.
Dino Lamb ensured a try bonus for the Famous Quarters and was complemented by Allan’s first conversion, the opposing side now 11 points behind.
Irish, looking to kill of the game with a man to the good, were aided further by the yellow carding of Joe Marler after a maul penalty, but Quins would win back possession from the lineout.
The vital, decisive try would arrive with the aid of Arundell, making immense ground to aid in the Exiles procession, with several recycles of the ball, Tom Pearson dotted down to confirm the famous win over the old enemy
González still had something to say in the game, jackalling a turnover and Joe Powell almost making the game’s second 50:22, Bassett tracking but was carried into touch.
To finish off a perfect afternoon, just when Quins anticipated a consolation score, a possession steal from Danilo Fischetti and boot into touch finished off the west London derby.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 5-0, 7-0, 12-0, 14-0, 14-7, 19-7, 21-7, 21-12, 26-12, 33-12, 35-12, 35-17, 35-22, 40-24, 42-24.
London Irish: Tries: Cunningham-South (3), Dykes (7) (40) (42), Stokes (22), Pearson (73); Conversions: Jackson (4) (8) (23) (40) (43) (75); Yellow Cards: Dykes (20).
Harlequins: Tries: Penalty Try (20), Allan (28), Bassett (52), Lamb (63); Conversions: Allan (63); Yellow Cards: Marler (70); Red Cards: Lewies (23).
15 James Stokes (Arundell 51), 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard van Rensburg (Morisi 75), 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Michael Dykes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White (Powell 66); 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke (Fischetti 34), 2 Agustín Creevy (Willemse 43), 3 Oliver Hoskins (Parker 64), 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman (Ratuniyarawa 25), 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Chandler Cunningham-South (González 51).
16 Mike Willemse, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Juan Martín González, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Henry Arundell.
15 Will Edwards (Wallace 29), 14 Nick David, 13 Oscar Beard (Anyanwu 75), 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Josh Bassett, 10 Tommy Allan, 9 Danny Care (Steele 76); 1 Joe Marler, 2 George Head (Musk 46), 3 Wilco Louw (Kerrod 54), 4 Dino Lamb, 5 Irne Herbst, 6 Stephan Lewies (c), 7 Will Evans, 8 Tom Lawday (Chisholm 57, Baxter 71)).
16 Jack Musk, 17 Fin Baxter, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 James Chisholm, 20 Luke Wallace, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Lennox Anyanwu, 23 Hayden Hyde.
Referee: Mr Matthew Carley