Rugby Union

Harlequins triumph over London Irish in scrappy affair

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Harlequins triumphed 20-15 over London Irish on Saturday afternoon in a scrappy affair that capped off the annual London Double Header at Twickenham.

Following on from a thrilling and breathless encounter between Saracens and Wasps, this fixture failed to live up to the hype.

Dominant start

Harlequins showcased their strength straight from the first whistle, dominating possession and ensuring that the opening minutes were played solely in Irish’s half.

It took just four minutes for Nick Evans to be given a sight of the posts, but the experienced fly-half was off on his first penalty attempt.

New Zealander Evans had a chance to atone for that miss shortly afterward, however. The Exiles were penalised again for hands in the ruck and Quins’ number 10 made no mistake this time as he sent the ball soaring over the posts for an early lead.

There was an early casualty for Irish as Tom Homer limped off to be replaced by Tom Fowlie and their misery was compounded in the 10th minute as their opponents made their superiority count and registered a first try of the afternoon.

Good work at the lineout from Harlequins led to an impressive attacking maul. The ball was quickly recycled out to Ugo Monye, who did not need a second invitation to touch down for his 50th try in the Aviva Premiership.

Lacklustre Irish

If Irish fans harboured any hope that conceding in such a manner would spark their team into life, they were to be sorely disappointed as yet more sloppiness and indiscipline gave Evans the chance to further extend the lead.

A second miss from the 34-year-old meant the score stayed at 10-0, however, and at this stage Irish finally managed to stake a foothold in the game.

Shane Geraghty got his side on the scoreboard with an impressive penalty from distance, but it was very much a case of one step forwards and two steps back for Brian Smith's men as centre Eamonn Sheridan was sent to the sin-bin for playing the ball on the floor.

Evans had more luck with the resulting kick, with Geraghty adding another of his own before Quins crossed the line once again four minutes from the break.

Second try

Having received possession on the left wing outside of the Irish 22, substitute Ollie Lindsay-Hague - a replacement for the injured Monye - showed a frightening burst of pace to break the attempted tackle from Topsy Ojo and cross the line.

Irish failed to breach Quins’ 22 for the entire first 40 minutes, although Geraghty did almost give fans something to shout about on the stroke of half-time as an audacious penalty attempt from just inside his own half rattled the crossbar.

Prop Joe Marler was making his first appearance since replacing international colleague Chris Robshaw as Quins captain, but was left frustrated just two minutes into the second half as he was shown a yellow card by referee Greg Garner for a dangerous tackle on hooker David Paice.

Geraghty reduced the deficit with the subsequent penalty and Irish received further good fortune as the inconsistent Evans botched another kick.

Aggressive Quins

As Quins began to lose their fluency, they became frustrated and were soon down to 13 as Kyle Sinckler joined fellow prop Marler for a ten-minute spell on the sidelines after committing another bad tackle on Paice that drew an understandably furious reaction from the Irish players.

With a two-man advantage to work with, Irish started to see far more of the ball but will have been disappointed to have only taken three points from a promising attacking situation during which they had strength in numbers pouring forward.

A fabulous tackle from the typically pumped-up Mike Brown prevented Irish from racing clear for their first try, with debutant James Short bundled into touch.

Things became very scrappy indeed as the match entered the latter stages - as the increased number of Mexican waves from the crowd will testify - but an underpar Irish were given hope of staging an unlikely comeback with just 15 minutes remaining after Geraghty succeeded with another penalty.

Scrappy finish

There was certainly no shortage of commitment and endeavour during the final few minutes, but ultimately a lack of quality or ingenuity proved fatal.

Quins were denied the opportunity to secure victory with a third try late on after a quite incredible succession of bumps and errors, Danny Care’s subtle knock-on immediately spotted by the TMO.

Evans had the opportunity to finally put the game beyond Irish and avoid a truly nervy ending with just 120 seconds left on the clock, yet again he was found wanting when the kick looked a mere formality.

Brown ultimately proved Quins’ saviour as he demonstrated nimble footwork and flawless judgement to see a hopeful Geraghty chip out of play to draw the final whistle and an immense sigh of relief from Conor O’Shea.

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Topics:
Aviva Premiership
Rugby Union
London Irish
Harlequins

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