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Injuries mar Exiles victory
PA Sport
February 23, 2007

London Irish earned a hard-fought victory against reigning champions Sale Sharks at Edgeley Park tonight - but it came at a price.

Sailosi Tagicakibau scored the only try of the match to register a 14-9 victory for the Exiles, but director of rugby Brian Smith has a selection headache ahead of the next week's clash against Newcastle.

Smith explained: "It was a courageous defensive performance from us but unfortunately it has cost us.

"We've got three front-row players sitting in the dressing room with injuries and they look to be significant.

"Danie Coetzee has got a broken cheekbone which looks to be quite nasty, Fran Rautenbach is struggling with a calf and Tonga Lea'aetoa has damaged his Achilles."

Irish had to withstand a barrage of attacks towards the end of the game, but their defence held out.

"Sale threw everything at us and nearly cracked us a few times," added Smith. "But the team managed to scramble in defence and we held them out.

"We got a very slow start, we kicked poorly and I think Sale controlled the game. The try got us back into the game basically.

"We built some confidence and luckily for us, at the crucial time, our defence held."

The win saw Irish leapfrog above the Sharks into sixth place in the Guinness Premiership table and saw Smith's side register their second win in a row.

"I think the game was very important for both sides. We want to try and get into that top half after a slow start to the season but we are starting to put a bit of run together now."

Sale director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre pointed to the Sharks' injury situation as the reason for the defeat.

He said: "The problem we have at the moment, is that we have got a lot of young kids of 20 or 21 in the team, and they are just learning their jobs.

"We started well in the first 20 minutes but when we got in good positions, we seemed to make the wrong decisions.

"They then got one chance at the opposite end and scored from it.

"Tonight the players worked really hard but it was maybe a lack of concentration at the wrong time and we were suddenly low on confidence.

"It's at times like this we have to work extra hard and not forget that last season we were English champions."

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