London Irish claim stunning Sevens triumph
August 3, 2012
London Irish stage a second half comeback to claim J.P. Morgan 7s crown%]
London Irish produced a superb second half comeback to claim the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby Sevens glory with a 31-28 victory over Gloucester in a thrilling final at The Rec.
J.P. Morgan Sevens Series
Trailing 28-5 at half-time thanks to an impressive opening from Gloucester, Irish rallied bravely with England newcomer Jonathan Joseph taking a starring role with two crucial tries. But it was left to another international in the form of Scotland's Joe Ansbro to cap an unlikely turnaround with the match-winning score in the last act of the game that clinched the first piece of silverware of the new season.
The much-fancied Cherry and Whites, who lost captain Jonny May to injury on the eve of the competition, looked on course for success with Shane Monahan, Dave Lewis, Dan Robson and Gareth Evans powering them into a commanding lead after England U20s flyer Marland Yarde had given Irish an early lead.
But back came Irish with skipper Alex Gray inspiring an heroic effort from his side with a try just after the re-start before Joseph, who made his Test bow on England's recent tour of South Africa, struck twice in as many minutes to raise hopes yet further.
Gloucester failed to maintain their lung-busting effort in the second half and also saw a golden opportunity to stem the Irish tide slip away. Free-scoring speedster Ian Clark looked all set to rob Irish of some priceless momentum having evaded a string of defenders but a superb last-gasp tackle from Jack Moates denied him the chance to touch the ball down. It was then left to Ansbro to set the seal on their epic triumph.
The evening did not begin well for the strong Irish line-up, that also included the likes of Topsy Ojo and Tom Homer, with Premiership newcomers London Welsh handing them a 29-17 defeat in their opening Pool B game. Bath also emerged as genuine title contenders with an impressive 24-7 victory over London Welsh to the delight of the home crowd. But Irish found their form in their second outing against the hosts who were on the wrong end of 38-14 result that robbed them of a place in the final.
London Irish captain Alex Gray poses with the J.P. Morgan 7s trophy following his side's memorable triumph © Getty Images
In Pool A, Saracens laid down an eye-catching early marker with a 33-12 victory over Sale and it looked like they may grace their third successive final having won the inaugural tournament in 2010 and finished as runners-up last year. Gloucester's 19-12 victory over Sale then set up a showdown with Saracens that was won thanks to a moment of magic from Dave Lewis and Clark who combined superbly for the vital score.
Gray paid tribute to the resilience of his side, commenting: "Obviously it was a tournament we wanted to win. Any chance of silverware we have a chance of winning we want to go and get it. We had to work pretty hard for that last one but that's what we are about.
"In that last game Jonathan Joseph showed what a class player he is and he's a real asset to have in anybody's team. When we went down at half-time, to get back and win it had to come straight from the heart and that says a lot about who we are at London Irish and that's going to be good for things to come."
"Obviously losing our first game and having to come back in style against Bath was a big ask for the boys. We stuck in and we did it for each other. I played all the games so it was tough physically but you want to stick in it and it's all worth it when you win."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton talks to World Cup-winning captain John Smit about life after rugby, his fears over the South African exodus and the World Cup
The reopening of the openside debate, a dominant wolf-pack and a sublime performance in defeat - Monday Maul looks at the weekend's talking points
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Rugby Championship alongside the best photographs from around the domestic game
Amy Perrett, the Australian referee who whistled the Women's Rugby World Cup final after handling only six Tests, talks to Jamie Lyall