Sunday 11th December 2016
British & Irish Cup Rd 3
Madejski Stadium Reading
Phil Westren's Report
With a focus back to British & Irish Cup action, this game at the Madejski Stadium, Reading, saw London Irish consolidate their place at the top of Pool 3. Despite the loss, however, the Pirates are still in second place.
The Pirates selected a side that gave a number of players an opportunity to ‘put their hands up’, and with club captain Chris Morgan named on the bench it was Tom Duncan who took over the skipper’s armband. Also, following a busy autumn, Canadian international Matt Evans was rested for this particular encounter.
The Pirates conceded the game’s opening try in just the fifth minute. Initially on the attack, they were then suddenly forced to defend, and it was full-back Jacob Atkins who crossed out wide. Fly-half Greig Tonks, the only London Irish starter – then at full-back - in the recent league match played between the teams, missed the difficult conversion.
London Irish arrived at this game aiming to make it 14 wins on the spin in all competitions, and boosting their cause it was not long before they extended their lead with a try scored by home skipper Conor Gilsenan. Tonks now added the extra two points.
Midway through the first half the Pirates had an opportunity to register their first score of the afternoon, and awarded a penalty it was fly-half Will Cargill who stepped up to strike his effort cleanly through the posts.
As if to confirm that the visitors had seemingly found their feet, and with Mike Pope a lively performer at scrum-half, all but from the restart wing Jack Arnott acquired possession and kicked ahead - with a little more than just purpose. Indeed, when he gathered the ball again he touched the ball down for a converted try that narrowed the deficit to just two points
The Pirates soon lost the services of injured flanker Jake Parker, who was replaced by Sam Simmonds, and they then suffered a further setback when a run from Tonks set up a converted try for No. 8 Senitiki Nayalo.
As the Pirates looked to immediately bounce back, the electric pace of wingman Alex O’Meara took him close, only to be denied by a tackle from opposition flyer Joe Cokanasiga. A second try for the Cornish side would have provided added confidence, but with the last play of the half it was ‘Irish’ who would actually score again, thanks to former Saracens hooker Dave Porecki making it to the line. Tonks converted the bonus-point-providing fourth try to make it 26-10.
A good start to the second half was what the Pirates needed, and that is just what they got. Skipper Tom Duncan was alert to make a telling interception, and adding support centre Bar Bartlett scored the try in what was his first competitive match start for the club. Cargill duly converted.
Unfortunately, in what was thus far proving a high-scoring contest, centre Matt Williams soon responded to score a converted try for London Irish, and in the process reopened a 16 points gap.
Following a high tackle on replacement hooker Rob Elloway, and Cargill then placing a fine touch kick to set up a catch-and-drive, there was every hope that the Pirates could score again. They went close, and would on a number of occasions, only for frustrating errors to at times let them down.
Credit was due for not giving up, and for preventing London Irish from adding to their tally, whilst the Pirates also had the last say with a consolation score right at the very end - Arnott making an interception to run in his second converted try of the afternoon.
Speaking after the game, co-coach Gavin Cattle said:
“With changes in the side you expect a certain lack of fluidity, however it was still disappointing that we left a lot out there and didn’t take advantage of scoring opportunities.
“Our set piece didn’t function, but we can work on those things, and there were of course also pleasing aspects in that we stuck at it against quality opposition and deserved credit for being camped in their half for much of the second forty.”
15 Jacob Atkins (Tom Fowlie 64), 14 Joe Cokanasiga (Ben Ransom 51)
13 Aseli Tikoirotuma, 12 Matt Williams, 11 Ciaran Hearn, 10 Greig Tonks
9 Conor Murphy (Rory Brand 58); 1 Harry Elrington (Luke Frost 63), 2 Dave Porecki, 3 Ollie Hoskins (Richard Palframan 58), 4 Jack Cooke, 5 Jerry Sexton
6 Conor Gilsenan (c), 7 Gerard Ellis, 8 Senitiki Nayalo.
Replacements (not used): Austin Hay, Blair Cowan.
15 Toby May (Laurence May 59), 14 Jack Arnott, 13 Tom Hendrickson,
12 Bar Bartlett (Nicolas De Battista 51), 11 Alex O’Meara, 10 Will Cargill
9 Mike Pope (Stuart Townsend 55); 1 Jack Andrew (Marlen Walker 53)
2 Tom Channon (Rob Elloway 53), 3 Tyler Gendall, 4 Edd Pascoe
5 Brett Beukeboom, 6 Jake Parker (Sam Simmonds 32)
7 John Stevens (Chris Morgan 51), 8 Tom Duncan (c).
Tries: Atkins, Gilsenan, Nayalo, Porecki, Williams; cons: Tonks (4).
Tries: Arnott (2), Bartlett; cons: Cargill (3); pen: Cargill.
Referee: Adam Jones (WRU).
Home & Away Shirts + Tees, Polos, Singlets & Shirts
On sale in the Marquee at next Sunday's return match with Irish
Home Shirt £35
Away Shirt £30
Training Tee £25
Polo Shirt £30
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