After surpassing 200 Club points, Academy graduate Ollie Hassell-Collins took a seat to explain what it means to him to achieve 40 touchdowns for Irish, as well as explain his favourite five scores.
Starting out in the London Irish senior set-up in the 2018/19 Championship campaign, the 23-year-old has established himself as an Exile mainstay and has since made 88 appearances for the Boys in Green.
This season, the winger tops the try-scoring charts in the Gallagher Premiership with seven tries in seven appearances, and is also in the top 10 players in the league in defenders beaten (21, fourth), gainline carries (33, 10th) and line breaks (11, joint-fourth).
Having realised a childhood dream of starting and scoring for London Irish, the ACE product tells of what it means to pull on the jersey and crossing the whitewash whilst doing so.
“It’s awesome, I love scoring tries and it probably is my favourite part of the job,” the winger stated.
“But to do it for a Club that I have come up through the Academy in, in a place I have been with a long time, makes it that extra bit special.”
First Premiership outing- 29-26 (W) vs Wasps - 20th October 2019, Gallagher Premiership
“We got a turnover and the ball went straight out to Curty [Curtis Rona] and then to Blair [Cowan], who throws this massive money ball which he never lets me forget about, he always goes on about how he assisted my first Premiership try!
“When I saw the space ahead of me, I was kind of surprised having thought a lot of the step up it was going to be to the Premiership, I was very young and still learning.
“When I saw 50+ metres ahead of me, I put my head down but I actually did think about passing it inside to Ben Meehan when I put the ball in two hands.
“I think he was calling for it, but I thought, ‘Nah I’m having this!’”
Tries: Zach Kibirige (2), Dan Robson
Conversion: Lima Sopoaga
Penalties: Lima Sopoaga (2), Jacob Umaga
Tries: Blair Cowan, Albert Tuisue, Ollie Hassell-Collins
Conversion: Paddy Jackson
Penalties: Paddy Jackson (4)
The Reading native not only scored on his Premiership debut, but also on his first team debut in the Championship – dotting down in a 38-29 home win over Cornish Pirates.
Prior to his first team debut, Hassell-Collins was called up to represent his country at under-18 age-grade level and eventually was capped by the under-20s throughout the calendar year of 2019.
Perforating through the Chiefs- 28-45 (L) vs Exeter Chiefs – 5th January 2020, Gallagher Premiership
“It was nice timing with the subs being there, but it was a cool moment and the boys actually pushed me back down, I couldn’t get up!” Hassell-Collins said of the aftermath of a fine individual score as he continued his fine form in his novel Premiership campaign.
“This is one of the first try where I’ve beaten a few defenders and done something quite magical, I just had to be strong and go over.”
“When I got around the first guy, I thought that I might have to pass inside but as there was no one there, I stepped back inside and beat another defender and had a feeling I could score.
“I put the foot down but recognised the full-back was coming across quite hard, and knew if I done another instep then he wouldn’t be able to tackle me and then I scored.
“There was a bit of panic at the time as to where I could go, I shouldn’t really be scoring that but that comes a little bit more natural now.
“I looked at the players and their body language, and judging off that I knew I could step in a few times and he wouldn’t get a dominant tackle on me.”
Tries: Belgium Tuatagaloa, Albert Tuisue, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Steve Mafi
Conversions: Steven Myler (4)
Tries: Sam Hill (2), Dave Dennis, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Ollie Devoto, Stu Townsend
Conversions: Gareth Steenson (6)
Reaching an exclusive Club of Exiles in reaching triple-figure career points hauls is no mean feat, especially given the 23-year-old’s relative nascent rugby career to his contemporaries.
In reaching such a milestone, the try-scorer is still aiming higher for what he can do for the Club.
“It’s something I hadn’t really thought about before, when it does happen you understand how big that is for myself and the Club, and really, how cool it is to say that.
“I got a text from my family saying I had reached it, they’re proud every time I go out and play for Irish.
“It’s a brilliant achievement to have, obviously I’m still young so hopefully I can go on to reach 500, 600 points just from tries.
“I love going out and doing this week after week for this Club.”
Taking flight vs Cherry and Whites- 24-20 (W) vs Gloucester Rugby - 22nd February 2020, Gallagher Premiership
“Defensively at the time, I was still learning the system, but it was one of the first times I felt that I got it right and put it into action.
“I was square, got on the ball and got away - it was my first Premiership hattrick, and one for the memories.
“It wasn’t quite as easy as the Bath hattrick, but as always, I’ve got to give credit to the guys on the inside to give me the space.
“As soon as it was in my hands, I knew it was time to go and they didn’t have anyone back there as they were on the attack.
“As soon as you get an intercept, it’s ‘put your head down’ and get to the try line and when I got to around their 10 metre line, I felt confident I could score and cool the jets slightly.”
Tries: Ollie Hassell-Collins (4)
Conversions: Steven Myler (2)
Tries: Charlie Chapman, Ollie Thorley, Louis Rees-Zammit
Conversions: Billy Twelvetrees
Penalties: Billy Twelvetrees
A crowning performance against Gloucester was one of the first big steps into recognition in the rugby world for the talented youngster, an afternoon where he dotted down an incredible four times.
Perhaps the “easiest” of his three Premiership trio of tries, as he admitted, was the most recent of his three against Bath Rugby, which was accomplished in the first half – only the 22nd player to grab a first-half hattrick in Premiership history, the first Exile to do so.
In the second of his three Premiership career hattricks in 2021, Hassell-Collins talks through the second of his three scores in Brentford against Newcastle Falcons.
Part two of the hattrick against Newcastle – 43-21 (W) vs Newcastle Falcons – 4th December 2021, Gallagher Premiership
“This is off a kick counter; Dolly [Tom Parton] does well to get through and then it’s quick ball from Phippsey [Nick Phipps], who finds Paddy [Jackson] and gives it straight to me.
“I felt that because there was a forward on the inside, I knew I could get on the outside of him and hopefully there would be a two-on-one with the winger.
“Thankfully the winger kept going out, I got on the outside of the forward and got through, beating the 10 and raced into the corner.
“It’s quite a satisfying try, when I look at it, it has got a bit of everything – footwork, speed, strength, and is probably one of my most complete tries.”
Tries: Kyle Rowe, Ollie Hassell-Collins (3), Steve Mafi, Agustín Creevy
Conversions: Paddy Jackson (5)
Penalties: Paddy Jackson
Tries: Sean Robinson, Callum Chick, Adam Radwan
Conversions: Will Haydon-Wood (2), Adam Radwan
Despite the significant landmark being achieved by Hassell-Collins, the five-year Irish player takes time to recognise the people who have aided in his remarkable feat.
“It was all down to my parents when I was little, taking me up and down the country just to play rugby in the first place and then when you get into a professional environment, you have all these unbelievable coaches on hand.
“They help you improve and do your job at the weekend, and when you do get on the field you have to recognise it’s the importance of team that gets you to points like this.
“The teammates I have around me now are world-class, and it’s a pleasure to go out there and do it for the fans alongside them.
The 200 mark- 26-24 (L) vs Harlequins – 29th October 2022, Gallagher Premiership
“We wished we had done it a little earlier, and if we got to the wings a little quicker we may have got a few more tries on the day.
“But everything about this try is near perfect from the BV [Benhard Janse van Rensburg] pass, the line from Luca [Morisi] to get a little nudge on his opposite number, Paddy [Jackson] does well to call the play and fix Joe Marchant to put Stokesy [James Stokes] through.
“Stokesy almost doesn’t pass it, but thankfully he held it on for long enough and I beating the 15 and went over the 10.
“He was calling for it on the inside, but I backed myself.
“With how the game was going, it was needed and it was quite a high-pressure try in being quite close to the edge, but I thought I done well in understanding the pitch dimensions and who was tackling me.”
Tries: Tommy Allan (2), Alex Dombrandt, George Head
Conversions: Tommy Allan (3)
Tries: So'otala Fa'aso'o, Ben Donnell, Ollie Hassell-Collins
Converions: Paddy Jackson (3)
Penalties: Paddy Jackson
With the most contemporary of his 40 Irish scores one of the select favourites, an evolution within the character and style of Hassell-Collins is evident, from his first try to his latest.
Despite an impressive try record and statistical numbers in 2022/23, Hassell-Collins is only focused on further personal growth within this Irish side, with the main goal of getting the four points every week.
“The try at the weekend against Quins was very much about my strength and momentum going forward, so gym work has been massive for me having always been quite skinny and not a lot of me.
“So, it was nice to bundle over a few players and get those few tries early on this season, and it’s always nice to see when you’re high on the scoring charts of course, so I’ll just keep pushing.
“I’m happy with how the season is going, I don’t want to focus on it too much though.
“Week by week, I want to keep going with my game in this team and try to get wins.
“I think my tactical awareness and understanding of the game we play has developed, I’m more aware of different ways we can try and get that win every week.
“When I first started out in the team, it was more about trying to get the ball, beat defenders and score – whereas now, I’m always thinking of where the space is and putting myself in the best position to score or assist my teammates.”