Quins collapse concerns Richards
September 27, 2008
Jim Evans is well marshalled by the London Irish defence © Getty Images
Quins had raced into a 20-3 lead shortly before the interval with tries from Ugo Monye and Tom Guest. But London Irish's Delon Armitage scored either side of half-time and Australian full-back Peter Hewat contributed 18 points, including an intercept try, to push the Exiles ahead.
Harlequins' England scrum-half Danny Care set up a frantic last 90 seconds with a late converted try, but London Irish held out for their first win since the opening day of the season. Against Gloucester last weekend Harlequins gave up a 13-8 half-time advantage to lose 24-20, and they were again unable to retain a lead.
''In the first half I thought we were outstanding. We played some superb rugby but we shouldn't have allowed them to score just before half-time,'' said Richards. "They shouldn't have been in with a shout but all of a sudden it brought them back within 12 points. As a consequence it gave them a sniff. At the start of the second half our territory play was poor. We allowed them to build up the pressure, they scored their tries and caused us problems.
''It comes down to our ability to take the pressure off ourselves, which we didn't do in the first 20 minutes of the second half. Against a team like London Irish that pressure is going to tell and we have nobody else to blame but ourselves.''
Quins rallied well in the closing stages and Care snuck over from close range to set up a tense finish - but that was only of marginal consolation for Richards.
''I thought the last eight or nine minutes was fantastic. I thought it showed a lot of character - but then we shouldn't have been in that position,'' he said.
London Irish boss Toby Booth was delighted by his side's resilience as they mounted a dramatic comeback. Booth said: ''That try from Delon just before half-time was vital. If we go in 20-3 down rather than 20-8 it is a different game. The momentum shifts and there was a lot of belief in that changing room at half-time. I thought we showed an inner desire and determination.
''If you want to be a consistent performer, if you want to play Heineken Cup year in and year out and you want to challenge for trophies that is the kind of performance you have to put in. I see that as a development of the mental side of our game as well as the statistics saying it was a great turnaround.''
But Booth added: ''We have to look seriously at how we get ourselves into these positions. You cannot gift people the ball in this league. With a penalty count of 7-3 and a turnover count of 7-1 in the first half you are going to make things hard for yourself.
''We were guilty of too much emotion and not enough precision. The half-time team-talk was very calculated. Things started to fall into place. If you cut your errors down and you keep the ball, people say it is a simple game.''
Ireland coach Joe Schmidt won the tactical battle and set his team on course for a shot at the Grand Slam. Tom Hamilton reports from Dublin
With the World Cup only a few months away, the last thing France needed was doubts over the future of their coach, writes Huw Richards
They came to Murrayfield looking to put down a marker, but Scotland were sent home with their tails between their legs, writes Tristan Barclay
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland