4 October 2020
Irish’s 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership campaign concluded with a 36-7 defeat against Bristol Bears.
On a cold and blustery afternoon, a series of early knock-on’s thwarted both sides in their tracks in the opening exchanges, with the slippery conditions proving difficult to get to grips with.
The first score of the contest went the way of the visitors on 13 minutes, when Piers O’Connor’s break down the left flank saw him scythe through a tackle and beat two Irish players, before offloading to Semi Radradra who dived over in the corner. Max Malins added the extras.
A tactical kicking contest ensued thereafter, with both sides taking the opportunity to kick the ball long, perhaps with the tricky conditions in mind.
Bristol doubled their try tally just after the half hour mark, when a rolling maul resulted in Ben Earl crashing over – with Malins adding the conversion.
The concession of penalties was really beginning to cost the Exiles dear – and the Bears seemed destined to score their third try of the afternoon in the 35th minute, only for Malins to inexplicably spill the ball with the try-line at his mercy.
He wasn’t to be denied with the boot moments later, however, with a well-struck penalty making it 17-0 to the visitors at half-time.
Irish improved at the start of the second half, enjoying an extended period of play deep in the Bears’ 22 – but the early score they craved wasn’t forthcoming.
As the driving rain got heavier, both sides were continually guilty of knocking the ball on.
Undeterred, Irish eyes were smiling soon after the hour mark, when a stunning individual run from inside his own half from Ollie Hassell-Collins saw him reduce the arrears. Paddy Jackson added the extra two points, to give the Exiles hope.
That hope was short-lived, however, as Harry Thacker muscled his way over from a maul – with Malins adding the conversion – to extend the Bears’ advantage.
The bonus point that the Bears craved in their pursuit of the top 4 arrived courtesy of a penalty try being awarded four minutes from time – and with the Exiles down to 14 men after Ben Donnell was shown a yellow card, Will Capon made the most of the Bears’ numerical advantage to seal the visitors’ victory with the final play of the contest.
The margin of the final scoreline was perhaps a little harsh on the Exiles, whose improved second half display would’ve given Declan Kidney and his staff plenty to ponder ahead of the 2020/21 season, which commences in just over six weeks’ time.
Score sequence (London Irish first): 0-5, 0-7, 0-12, 0-14, 0-17, 5-17, 7-17, 7-22, 7-24, 7-31, 7-36
London Irish: Tries: Hassell-Collins (62); Conversions: Jackson (62); Penalties:
Bristol Bears: Tries: Radradra (13) Earl (31), Thacker (67); Penalty Try: (76); Conversions: Malins (13) (31) (67); Penalties: Malins (36)
London Irish: 15 Tom Homer (Stokes 68), 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Phil Cokanasiga, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps (Meehan 64), 1 Allan Dell (Elrington 55), 2 Agustin Creevy (Cornish 55), 3 Sekope Kepu (Hoskins 53), 4 George Nott, 5 Chunya Munga (de Chaves 55), 6 Matt Rogerson © (Neal 78), 7 Jack Cooke (Donnell 64), 8 Albert Tuisue.
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Sebastian de Chaves, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Ben Meehan, 22 Ross Neal, 23 James Stokes.
Bristol Bears: 15 Ioan Lloyd (Sheedy 63), 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Semi Radradra (Bedlow 78), 12 Siale Piutau ©, 11 Piers O’Conor, 10 Max Malins, 9 Harry Randall (Uren 67), 1 Jake Woolmore (Thomas 57), 2 Harry Thacker (Capon 78), 3 John Afoa (Sinckler 57), 4 Ed Holmes, 5 Joe Joyce, 6 Chris Vui, 7 Jake Heenan (Harding 73), 8 Ben Earl.
Replacements: 16 Will Capon, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Mitch Eadie, 20 Fitz Harding, 21 Andy Uren, 22 Callum Sheedy, 23 Sam Bedlow.
Referee: Mr Karl Dickson