Lowe ensures misery for Exiles
December 27, 2010
Jordan Turner-Hall challenges the London Irish defence
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Harlequins heaped further pressure on beleaguered London Irish with a 28-18 triumph in their Aviva Premiership showdown at Twickenham on Monday.
The third edition of Quins' 'Big Game' drew 74,212 fans to the home of English rugby and the bumper crowd witnessed the Exiles sink ever deeper into the mire with their eighth straight defeat in all competitions.
The hosts on the other hand secured a much-needed leg-up to keep them in with a chance of the play-offs, although there was very little quality on display to warm the near capacity crowd's spirits.
The fixture had threatened to peter out as Nick Evans and Chris Malone traded penalties to leave Quins just ahead at 21-18 heading into the last 10 minutes but the fleet-footed George Lowe wrapped up the game's only try on 68 minutes to put open water between the combatants for the first, but decisive, time.
Ugo Monye made his comeback for Harlequins from a foot injury that had kept him sidelined since the second game of the season. The England wing was industrious and won Harlequins a couple of penalties but this was not the day for a flying wing to shine.
The first half never really got going and the crowd was more animated by the appearance of X Factor drone Matt Cardle than most of the rugby on show. The score was 18-15 in Harlequins' favour at the interval but it was only marginally better than the dour opening 40 minutes of Saracens' win against Wasps at Wembley yesterday.
After Evans had landed the first of six first-half penalties, Harlequins wing Tom Williams snatched an interception and streaked clear. Malone is not known for his speed but the veteran got his angles right and saved the try with a perfectly executed tackle, dragging Williams into touch.
Mike Brown briefly raised the crowd to their feet after picking a great line onto a pass from Evans, but his chip ahead was poor and he was taken out by Delon Armitage. From a subsequent penalty, Harlequins went for touch but the ball was knocked on at the lineout.
Evans and Malone then exchanged penalties as both sides refused to let the other play and referee Andrew Small finally ran out of patience and sin-binned London Irish lock Bob Casey on the stroke of half-time for another breakdown infringement.
It was London Irish who raised the temperature after the interval after Seilala Mapusua's delightful inside pass sent Topsy Ojo clear. Ojo had two men outside him but Williams tracked back well to pick off the pass. Harlequins led 21-15 but London Irish had all the momentum.
The Exiles hammered away at the try line with Alex Corbisiero, Steffon Armitage and Mapusua all knocked back by the Harlequins defence.
Eventually the pressure told and Danny Care was sin-binned for killing the ball. After a long debate with captain Clarke Dermody, Malone went for the points. It was a decision Irish were left to regret. With 11 minutes remaining, Turner-Hall stabbed through a left-footed kick for Lowe to score the killer try.
The Exiles spent the last 10 minutes camped on the Harlequins line, winning numerous penalties but referee Small refused to brandish another yellow card. Irish could have kicked any of them to secure the losing bonus point but went for the try and left Twickenham empty-handed.
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