I’m sitting in front of the TV to write this one, hoping to go to London Irish’s new ground for the Premirship match but commitments mean it’s a sofa match for me this week, so a match report that looks a bit like a live commentary. Things are on to a winner in the build up with Topsy Ojo on the team, he’s gets more impressive the more I listen to him! A look at both teams to start with
- Facundo Gigena
- Mike Willemse
- Marcel Van der Merwe
- Chunya Munga
- George Nott
- Steve Mafi
- Tom Pearson
- Olly Cracknell
- Ben White
- Rory Jennings
- Ollie Hasell-Collins
- Terence Hepatema
- Matt Williams (c)
- Cillian Redmond
- Henry Arundell
16 – Matt Corninsh, 17 – Will Goodrick-Clarke, 18 – Ciaran Parker, 19 – Jack Cooke, 20 – Izzy Moore-Aiono, 21 – Hugh O’Sullivvan, 22 – Jacob Atkins, 23 – Curtis Rona
- Richard Barrington
- Theo Dan
- Sam Wainwright
- Cameron Boon
- Callum Hunter-Hill
- Theo McFarland
- Toby Knight
- Andy Christie (c)
- Ivan Van Zyl
- Manu Vunipola
- Rotimi Segun
- Dom Morris
- Brandon Jackson
- Ben Harris
- Elliot Obatoyinbo
16 – Samson Adejimi, 17 – Sam Crean, 18 – Harvey Beatob, 19 – Obinna Nkwocha, 20 – Ben Earl, 21 – Ruben de Haas, 22 – Tom MIlls, 23 – Francis Moore
Saracens kicked the game off and we had the first scrum within the first minute as Christie knocked the ball on acting as scrum half, the ball got kicked out Saracens way but the ref called the play back and re-set the scrum. The next knock on was a L Irish one, 2 scrums within the first 3 minutes! Which is pretty unusual! And lo, a third with 4.5 minutes on the clock – yikes!
A mention for Rotimi Segun, making his 50th appearance, he’s been biding his time patiently and tends to shine when he does play. The sight of McFarland with ball in one hand was both a delight and a fright, on this occasion he dropped a lovely pass to Segun, good ground made, but to no avail, L Irish won a penalty as McFarland got the ball back and went to ground, a penalty took them back towards Saracens half. Yet another knock on and yet another scrum with just 8 minutes on the clock. A scrum that was lost by Saracens, most unusual to see one go against the head.
A lovely chip through by L Irish debutant Arundell saw Obatoyinbo take the ball out of play and we had our first goal line drop out. A series of penalties saw a line out for L Irish close to the Saracens line, Aaaand, we had put fifth scrum in within 14 minutes. Saracens came away with the ball from their own put in this time, Van Zyl cleared the ball to half way. That was a phew for Saracens!
That was until L Irish scored a quite excellent try as they moved the ball quickly to Pearson who stormed up the pitch, he passed to White who was stopped by Obatoyinbo but Ollie Hassell-Collins was on his shoulder to get the ball over the line. The conversion was good and L Irish were ahead by 7.
Saracens managed to lose a set piece again moments later, a line out this time. We had the first involvement of the TMO as Obatoyinbo appeared to have committed a deliberate knock on as White was attacking, the action was close to the line. It was deemed to be as such and a yellow card was shown, the officials however didn’t feel it was a definite try scoring opportunity, so no penalty try. The commentators didn’t agree. But the try was scored staight from the scrum (yes another!) as Hepetema took the pass from White to get over the line. The 2 were added and L Irish led by 14. With 25 minutes on the clock the Saracens team just weren’t clicking.
A 6th penalty was conceded by Saracens, in the scrum this time, a 7th soon followed as the tackler didn’t roll away. A third try was the result as Steve Mafi forced his way through 3 defenders after Willemse had taken the ball forwards from the maul.
We had another knock on, another scrum and another penalty against Saracens, there is a saying about men against boys, this was certainly the case in the first half an hour. L Irish attacked and the ball was dropped, that meant……. another scrum! This one fell to the ground as a starter and was re-set, and hallelujah Saracens came away with the ball through Christie. Another Saracens penalty gave L Irish more good territory. Aaaaanother knock on, another scrum – I’ve lost count now! An important scrum for Saracens, Andy Christie came away with the ball, Van Zyl cleared after a couple of phases.
L Irish turned the ball over on halfway after a Sarecens line out, won by them, but resulting in that penalty on the verge of half-time. The ball missed touch but Half time it was and the teams headed in to the dressing rooms. Saracens would need to get some more of the basics right to get anything from the game.
Saracens managed 12 phases at the start of the second half before Mafi turned the ball over, a seat belt tackle by L Irish followed by not rolling away gave Saracens some more possession however, close to the L Irish line, at last, another penalty was given in the line out by L Irish, a line out closer to the line for Saracens and another penalty, that wasn’t needed as the forwards took the ball towards the line until a high pass out to Segun was juggled, he kept enough control to get over the line, The conversion was missed, but Saracens had points on the board.
However, L Irish were soon back at the other end and an inevitable fourth try came for L Irish as Cillian Redmond scored after some great work by Obatoyinbo to keep Arundell out, the conversion hit the posts, but L Irish still had a 21 point lead. A nice, positive story about the try scorer he’d been away from the game with cancer but was well and truly back! His evening was over however after the try was scored.
Ben Harris won the ball from the line out, he looked like he’d injured his shoulder early in the first half, but was carrying on and carrying on with some style. A huge tackle by Jennings on the much larger Hunter-Hill saw Saracens lose possession and play went back to an earlier penalty, the referee awarded a free kick to Saracens for L Irish having the wrong number in the line out. This time the ball went out to the right wing and that injured man, Ben Harris scored, again the forwards had taken the ball through several phases in the build up. The conversion was good and the score moved to London Irish 26 Saracens 12 after 57 minutes. Ben Earl had entered the fray for Saracens.
A lovely steal in mid-field by Sam Crean gave the ball back to Saracens, the ball was kicked away but ultimately L Irish kicked the ball out for a Saracens line out. A lovely take from McFarland saw Saracens move the ball upfield with a lovely run by Brandon Jackson. The ball made it”s way back to the left wing, with a lovely pass from Obatoyinbo and the man with one shoulder, Ben Harris, popped over to score. the gap was reduced to 9. I’m pleased to report we weren’t having the ridiculous numbers of scrums in the second half. Another hallelujah!
And lo as I typed that, the ball was kicked dead over the Saracens line from the L Irish half and yes, we had a scrum! McFarland was in the second row as the enormously tall Boon had left the pitch when Earl came on, that will have added some weight there. Saracens had a great chance as Captain Christie approached the line, he bounced the ball however, there’d been another outrageous off-load from McFarland. He’s looking more like Will Skelton, without the Huge part, as time goes on! Play went back for an earlier penalty and this time Vunipola kicked the points.
L Irish took the same decision moments later, bu the ball hit the posts, happily Saracens have learnt from the Joe Marchant try a couple of seasons ago. Jennings cleared the L Irish, thinking it was a clever 50 – 22 but the ball had been played back, this was now a 6 point game, could L Irish be heading for their 4th draw so far this season?
Manu Vunipola was like a different player in this half, but with just under 5 minutes on the clock L Irish put in a key turn over. A penalty in midfield gave them a line out close to Saracens 22. Another, side entry this time and Jennings took another shot at gaol, a successful kick would take away the losing bonus point. With almost perfect silence the kick went through the posts and that took London Irish to 29.
Remarkably Ben Harris, with his one arm took the kick from the kick off and a penalty was won, however L Irish won the line out and that was a 2 bonus points opportunity missed. A good win for London Irish they won by 29 to 20. A much better second half for Saracens but they couldn’t quite pull it back. Tom Pearson received the Man of The Match plaudit, he looks a talent!