8 May 2023
London Irish captain Matt Rogerson voiced his fulfilment in the players and staff of the Club after helping close out a final day victory against Exeter Chiefs at the Gtech Community Stadium.
The 17-14 result confirmed Irish’s standing in fifth in the 2022/23 season with Chiefs hot on the tails of the Exiles heading into the match, sitting a league place and four points behind their hosts on Saturday.
A Juan Martín González brace, combined with a try from replacement Tom Pearson, allayed any fears of seeing out a campaign to remember on a sour note.
Preparations for the match were not hampered despite outside discourse surrounding the Club, according to Rogerson, who testified to the character shown from within the camp at the Hazelwood Centre.
“It has been a tough week for everyone, as a group of players and staff we have spoken about the things that are outside of our control and letting them run their course,” he said.
“I’ve been so proud of how everyone has come to work over this past week and prepped for the game, no one has been too distracted.
“You can’t come and beat a strong Chiefs side without being switched on mentally, it’s a massive credit to everyone and I think it’s the first time we’ve won our last game in a number of years.
“After everything that has been happening, I’m really proud of everyone.”
Both sides were up against it with the elements coming into play in west London during the first half in particular, but the Boys in Green were able to weather that storm with a physical showing.
“It was pretty tough, very greasy as it had rained all through the day.
“The ball was wet and that made for more errors under the high ball and also in passing too.
“It became a bit scrappy at times with a lot of set-pieces as a result of that, but we anticipated a set-piece battle against them and I think the boys really held up well in that.”
Despite the challenging conditions, as ever, the skipper led the charge up front by attaining a game-high 18 tackles, missing just one attempt against Rob Baxter’s men.
Heading into the game, Rogerson boasted the highest tackle success rate amongst flankers in Premiership Rugby (97%), and such industry was necessary once more on Saturday afternoon.
Rogerson analysed the Exiles’ output without ball possession on the day that saw them attain a vital four points.
“We didn’t really hold the ball well that first half, there were a lot of knock-ons and a number of penalties conceded given in Chiefs’ territory.
“Fair play to them, they threw everything at us, but I think we defended brilliantly and if we were to keep winning those defensive sets we would have to keep replicating those from the first-half.
“Equally, we wanted to hold the ball a bit more in the second half to try and play up into their third a little bit as we felt we were getting pinned in their half quite a lot.
“We tried to increase those territory battles and move our position up the pitch and try and keep hold of the ball.”
Such was the performance of the 29-year-old, that Director of Rugby Declan Kidney maintained it was a difficult decision to take off Rogerson on 52 minutes.
“He was so good during the week, it was a marginal call… what Matt has done this week is amazing and it goes beyond his captaincy in rugby.
“Whoever employs him later on in life will get a top, top man,” the Irishman proudly stated.
Now, Rogerson and his team can convalesce following on from a bruising season in leading the Club to their highest league positioning since 2009.
“We have the five weeks off now for the summer, usually two of that is our holiday and three of that will be our active rest where we return to training again.
“We’re all looking forward to putting our feet up and letting our bodies recover and spend some time with the family.
“It’s been an emotional end to a great year for us, and I want to thank every supporter that has come along to our games, home and away, it has meant a great deal to everyone at London Irish and we’re looking forward to doing it again.”