Lamb kicks Exiles past Tigers
October 24, 2009
Steffon Armitage was a thorn in the side for Leicester
© Getty Images
London Irish fly-half Ryan Lamb kicked six penalties to defeat last season's champions Leicester Tigers 18-12 at the Madejski Stadium.
In a man of the match display Lamb orchestrated a cathartic win for the Exiles against the side that defeated them by a single point in last season's Guinness Premiership final. The game was short on free-flowing action but had several fascinating sub-plots as the November internationals loom.
England manager Martin Johnson will have watched disbelievingly as Tigers prop Julian White limped off inside the opening five minutes, adding to a front-row injury list also containing Andrew Sheridan, Lee Mears and Phil Vikcery. Opensides Steffon Armitage and Lewis Moody went toe-to-toe with England honours in mind and produced many of the game's high-points.
Jeremy Staunton scored three penalties for the visitors, with late replacement Ben Youngs adding a fourth as part of a lively cameo. Leicester made a mess of the game on the floor, their high-pressure breakdown work reining in the usually electrifying Exiles backline.
The home side exploded in to action, with pressure from George Stowers allowing Armitage to snaffle the kick-off. A Lamb cross-kick was kept out by a desperate interception from Johne Murphy before Elvis Seveali'i was thwarted when his delicate grubber rolled dead thanks to the truncated in-goal areas at the Madejski.
The Tigers lost White after four minutes, Martin Castrogiovanni trotting on as Lamb dictated play with a raking kick to touch. His calm did not spread to the rest of his team as the frantic pace continued. His accuracy from the kicking tee was not so good first up as he horribly miscued the Exiles' first chance, secured by a mauling of the Leicester tight forwards at the scrum.
Staunton made no mistake with his first shot, giving the Tigers the lead despite having been dominated in the early exchanges. Lamb drew his side level soon after as the Irish scrum continued its dominance and secured the lead with another place kick after Armitage had theatrically reacted to a tug on his shirt by Tigers No.8 Jordan Crane.
Lamb's third penalty came after scrum-half Paul Hodgson's darting run from a free-kick produced new impetus for his side. Crane should have seen yellow for an offside lunge at a ruck and any momentum for Irish was immediately handed back by Tom Homer dropping the restart under little pressure. Armitage salvaged the situation with a superb turnover as he continued to shade his battle with England rival Lewis Moody.
Immediately after the restart Stowers was pinged for going off his feet, allowing Staunton to close the gap. Lamb's superb attitude with ball in hand saw him open up space for Homer with a flick of the hips deceiving the onrushing Moody and the young wing's excursion was rewarded with a scrum when Lucas Amorosino spilled a high ball.
Lamb's fourth successful kick restored a six-point cushion after the Tigers had been penalised on the floor, but he almost handed the initiative back when his next clearance was charged down. The ball fortunately fell to his fullback, Peter Hewat, who sparked a counter by scything through the advancing Tigers' line.
The smothering defence of the away side meant that the Exiles were continually pinned in their own territory, and Dan Hipkiss caused some flutters in the Irish line with a trademark dart but Hewat pounced for his second intercept, only for Staunton to beat him to his hack ahead.
A bulldozing run from Stowers opened up the Tigers defence after a superb scissors move with Sevelai'i, only for his off-load to Lamb to be adjudged a knock-on as the fly-half dived on a loose ball. Lamb did not have to wait long to extend their lead, but it was again from the kicking tee as an infringement by Moody was punished.
Replacement Exiles hooker David Paice ignored the words of referee Stuart Barnes to give Youngs three points following a thrilling run first-up by the Tigers' replacement scrum-half. Some over-enthusiastic work at the ruck then gave Lamb his sixth penalty success, Castrogiovanni the guilty party. A thumping hit by Stowers on Geoff Parling forced the ball loose as the lock looked to be breaking clear, the Tigers reduced to an ineffective kick from Anthony Allen as time ran out.
A spill from the lightweight Amorosino then presented the ball to Hodgson, who hooked a kick in behind the Tigers. Scott Hamilton gathered but was swamped by Armitage, who drew a penalty after some limpet-like work. Lamb's kick, to deny the Tigers a bonus-point, faded away at the last.
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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