Lamb inspires last-gasp Exiles
October 31, 2010
Ryan Lamb sealed victory for London Irish
© Getty Images
London Irish survived a spirited comeback from Sale to reclaim top spot in the Aviva Premiership with a 39-26 victory at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.
The Exiles appeared to have blown the chance of replacing Northampton at the top of the pile but young winger Jonathan Joseph popped up to seal a bonus-point in the dying seconds with his second try of the game.
Joseph intercepted Chris Jones' pass deep into injury time to secure the bonus but Ryan Lamb was again the match-winner for the Exiles, scoring 24 points thanks to a try, four penalties, conversion and drop-goal, while flanker George Stowers also crossed to leave Sale in tatters heading into the closing stages.
But instead of probing for the bonus point needed to overhaul Northampton, the Exiles were forced to mount a desperate rearguard action. Sale's fightback began with a 58th-minute try from Anitelea Tuilagi before Ben Cohen added a second shortly after.
With fly-half Nick MacLeod producing a faultless kicking display - he finished with 16 points - Irish were left glancing nervously at a scoreboard that read 26-26. However, two late penalties from Lamb helped them regain control in the final five minutes before Joseph scored the crucial fourth try amid a frantic finish.
Lamb and MacLeod exchanged early penalties but Sale were in the driving seat during the opening exchanges. Openside David Seymour broke two tackles before being hauled down by Joseph as the Sharks continued to make inroads with their running game.
Crucially, however, they had failed to make sufficient impact on the scoreboard and Irish pulled level when Lamb rounded off a spell of sustained pressure with a penalty. Tom Homer limped off, ending a fine opening half-hour from the Exiles fullback, but the home side barely noticed as they took the lead for the first time.
Stretched to breaking point following a raid down the left, Sale's defence finally cracked when Lamb spotted he was up against two forwards and jinked his way to the line before converting his own try. The tables had turned, a fact confirmed when Irish added a second try with a superb individual score by Joseph two minutes before half-time.
Joseph used the presence of Chris Hala'ufia outside him to create doubt as he weaved his way over the whitewash. Lamb slotted a drop-goal early in the second half to nudge Irish 21-6 ahead and they were back on the offensive when Cohen sent a kick straight into touch.
A controversial try followed with galloping lock Nick Kennedy halted by Cohen just short of the right corner before play was rapidly switched to the opposite wing. Centre Daniel Bowden spied the overlap but his forward scoring pass to Stowers was missed by referee Martin Fox.
Sale responded with a beautifully-worked try with smart hands from Karena Wihongi and Cohen sending Tuilagi over. When MacLeod slashed the deficit to 26-16 with just under 20 minutes to go, the Sharks sensed a comeback was possible. Their self-belief grew when the fly-half booted his fourth penalty and in the 68th minute they drew level with perfect hands from Neil Briggs and Williams giving Cohen the space to score.
MacLeod converted but Lamb slotted two penalties in quick succession before Joseph had the last word.
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