Exiles ease past Gloucester
September 19, 2010
George Stowers reaches out to score for London Irish
© Getty Images
London Irish bounced back from defeat to Bath by beating Gloucester 23-16 at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday to move second in the Aviva Premiership.
The Exiles began the day as favourites against a Gloucester side struggling for confidence after their first two games of the season produced a narrow win over Leeds and a defeat to newly-promoted Exeter, and the home side duly picked up the points despite a patchy performance.
Exiles hooker James Buckland scored the only try of the first-half after strong work from his fellow forwards and the second came from Samoan No.8 George Stowers a week after his red card at the Recreation Ground. Fly-half Ryan Lamb chipped in with 13 points in an excellent kicking performance, with his opposite number, Nicky Robinson, accounting for all of Gloucester's points before Lesley Vainikolo sealed a losing bonus-point with a last-minute consolation try.
Referee Dean Richards dominated the early stages of the game as both teams struggled to stay on his good side, with penalties for Lamb and Robinson following two blasts of the whistle.
The first moment of genuine quality came from the home side and appropriately produced the first try of the game for the lively Buckland. Paul Hodgson rescued possession with a reverse pass out wide and from there the Irish pack took over, recycling the ball efficiently and offloading whenever possible. Declan Danaher, who started at openside in place of the injured Steffon Armitage, provided the scoring pass to his hooker out wide.
Lamb slotted the conversion but Gloucester were back to within four when Robinson hammered over a penalty from inside his own half after Pierre Capdevielle had made a mess of the Exiles' scrum. The home side's revenge should have arrived before the break after a defensive mix-up between Charlie Sharples and Vainikolo gifted them a five metre scrum but Gloucester escaped, riding their luck before the Exiles went to sleep and allowed Robinson to spark a breakaway from loose ball.
His kick ahead was flung infield by Lamb in a moment of madness and only poor decision-making from Mike Tindall, whose grubber erased a potential overlap, allowed Jonathan Joseph to scramble back and save the day for Irish.
Robinson brought Gloucester back to within one with his third penalty just after the break but the Exiles came back with renewed vigour thanks to some powerful running and a delicate kick ahead from the excellent Seilala Mapusua. The Samoan centre then almost scored his side's second try but was crucially held up over the line by Brett Deacon and Alasdair Strokosch, with Lamb settling for three points after the TMO ruled out anything more.
The momentum remained with London Irish as the half wore on, scrum-half Hodgson keeping the ball moving well before Lamb added another penalty to extend their lead to 16-9 just before the hour mark.
The second try duly arrived and was crafted by the increasingly influential centre pairing of Mapusua and Kiwi Daniel Bowden. It was Mapusua's bust from an unguarded ruck which set the movie in motion and Bowden added the finishing touches with a beautiful long pass to Stowers on the wing. The giant Samoan back-rower had an easy run in after Luke Narraway had flown out of the Gloucester line looking for a big hit.
Gloucester threw caution to the wind in the closing stages and after the Exiles had spurned the chance to kick the ball dead and end the game, Vainikolo rounded off a well-worked try which owed a great deal to brilliant handling from James Simpson-Daniel. The score ensured that the visitors took a point back to Kingsholm, but the Shed would not have been roaring their approval for their performance.
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
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