London Irish v Harlequins – Double Header Part Two
The second game of the afternoon saw London Irish take the home team dressing room; their opposition Harlequins; close neighbours to the big stadium refuse to concede a home tie. Every year it never ceases to amaze me that fans watch their own team then leave; huge swathes of the seats filled by Saracens and Wasps fans stood empty which is a real shame. Shane Geraghty started proceedings; his kick being well chased; the first lineout went the way of London Irish after a long kick by Nick Evans. Harlequins were awarded an early penalty as Dan Leo went offside. Nick Evans, the record points scorer at 87 points in 6 appearances at the Double Header, missed the chance to put points on the board. Quins were awarded a further 2 penalties; Evans choosing to kick the 2nd, he was unlikely to miss 2 in a row, Quins took the lead. London Irish had to make a substitution as Evans was preparing for the kick; Tom Homer left the field having only played 7 minutes; his leg was heavily bandaged I can only imagine they were taking a risk in fielding him. Harlequins took full advantage of the territory afforded to them by numerous Irish penalties; Ugo Monye went in to score after the ball had been passed across the line, with Mike Brown flicking the ball into his hands. Brown was clearly starting where he left off from the previous season. Nick Evans added the extras from the touchline.
The officials were in good contact during the opening quarter and Irish were awarded a penalty as the Touch Judge informed the referee that Luke Wallace had transgressed in the scrum. The opportunity was thrown away as the ball was knocked on; then to compound matters Quins were awarded a penalty for a high tackle. Followed by a further penalty for using hands on the floor; Quins fans must have wondered if Nick Evans had his kicking boots on as he missed the kick. After further pressure from Quins the home team were awarded a penalty from the scrum allowing them to clear their lines. Irish attacked but knocked on. Mike Brown fell as Quins attacked taking an opposition player out as he did. George Robson took George Skivington out in the air to see another penalty awarded. Shane Geraghty kicked and scored putting 3 points on the board for London Irish. However moments later Eamonn Sheridan in effect took a card for the team, after a series of penalties against Irish he was deemed to have played the ball on the ground and sent to the bin for a 10 minute breather. Nick Evans converted the resutling penalty. London Irish were awarded a penalty as Charlie Matthews came in at the side of the ruck; Shane Geraghty converted to close the gap to 7 points and keep things even while they were a man down. That wasn’t to remain as the speedy Ollie Lindsay-Hague stormed down his wing to score after a well timed pass by Nick Easter; Nick Evans had an easy task to add the extras. Marland Yarde was given a chance to show his pace against his replacement James Short as Danny Care put in a kick after an Irish knock on; Short was 1st to the ball and Irish won a penalty as the Quins attackers failed to roll away. We saw a close up of new Quins captain as the scrum was being set, I can’t quite decide if he looks scarier when he smiles or not! He’s going to be a very interesting leader this season I imagine! London Irish were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half time way within their own half; Shane Geraghty kicked the ball and it bounced off the posts! Well worth a go! The teams left the field; I imagine London Irish will have rued the number of penalties they gave away in the 1st half; their dressing room would have been interesting!
The 2nd half started with Topsy Ojo having a chance to show his heels, Lindsay-Hague tackled him well. However a very poor tackle moments later by Quins captain Joe Marler; he lifted David Paice above the horizontal; saw him sent to the bin. It’ll be interesting to see how many minutes Marler, in his new role; spends in the bin this season; it can never be a good thing for the captain to be absent. Shane Geraghty added 3 points to his tally. Geraghty committed a school boy error in missing touch with the next penalty awarded. Rather than attacking in the Quins half Irish found themselves facing another kick from Nick Evans as they gave away yet another penalty themselves; the kick however went wide of the posts. It was good to hear the interaction between the officials; Greg Garner is clearly a proactive referee; Matt Hopper was deemed to have knocked on by the touch judge as Irish kicked the ball away, the referee had initially ruled the ball knocked back. We had a spell of errors; which helped Quins absorb the loss of their captain for 10 minutes, but didn’t really entertain the crowd it has to be said. Kyle Sinckler flew into a tackle, very nearly taking David Paice’s head off. There was really no option than to see yellow again for Quins; I really can’t understand why there were boo’s and yells of disapproval? Joe Marler still in the bin had a good chat with Sinckler before he went back to await his return; that was good to see. London Irish attacked against the 13 men of Quins but lost the ball. The men in green had another concerted attack but couldn’t find the space to score in spite of the numerical advantage. They were awarded a penalty as Quins went offside and Geraghty kicked the 3 points; but with an 11 point gap a try against 13 men would have been a much better option.
London Irish attacked through James Short; he was well tackled but Mike Brown who really is one of the best players in the Premiership in my opinion, showed that hint of petulance that can creep into his game, there was no reaction so no price to pay. Quins were awarded a penalty in the Irish half and chose to kick to touch as they returned to their full compliment; the ball was knocked on but we were back to 15 apiece. Quins were penalised in the scrum allowing Irish to clear their lines. Irish were awarded a scrum after Mike Brown took a high ball, Quins took the ball to the ground; a penalty followed after a Quins player went in at the side after a scruffy scrum. Geraghty scored the 3 points, closing the gap to 5 points. With 11 minutes and one score in it, we were treated to a Mexican wave again – bah humbug! Irish were awarded a penalty as Quins attacked, but messed up their lineout, giving Quins a chance to attack. They got possession back but Tom Fowlie dropped the ball as it came across the line to him. They did however win a penalty from the resulting scrum; were we going to see a late turn about in the game? Not from that move as Irish went off their feet in the ruck giving Quins a penalty and a lineout in the Irish half. Quins surged forward in attack after Mike Brown made a break; he threw a wild pass to Danny Care that landed at his feet; Care kicked the ball on and was held back in the process, the ball was knocked on in what looked like a fairly deliberate manner as he was pulled back, the ball was eventually touched down by a Quin but the TMO couldn’t fail to miss the knock on and a scrum was awarded to Irish. Quins however pushed in the scrum, totally dominating and were awarded a penalty; Nick Evans missed what should have been an easy 3 points. I’d say it’s unusual for him to play the full 80 minutes, perhaps that miss was an indication that he shouldn’t have. London Irish were however running out of time and a further penalty gave Quins more possession. Irish had one final chance but had to play from within their own 22, they hadn’t looked like scoring a try throughout the game and it wasn’t to be in the final moments. The score finished on London Irish 15 Harlequins 20 – a win for the away team.
In common with the teams playing in the 1st of the double header games, I imagine both the London Irish and Harlequins training grounds will be busy places in the coming week. Harlequins face Saracens in the next round at home; London Irish face a long journey to Newcastle. The Northampton Saints players who chose to watch both games won’t have seen too much to worry them as yet.