Leicester 35-3 London Irish (25th November 2005)

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Leicester 35-3 London Irish (25th November 2005)

by OxonRob on Tue Nov 29, 2005 12:03 am

Leicester face London Irish at Welford Road - report by Jim Hoare
Leicester 35-3 London Irish (25th November 2005) at Welford Road

As sure as night follows day, winning streaks come to an end, often with a vengeance. As far as our beloved London Irish was concerned, this was to be the bitter case on Friday evening. It turned out to be our heaviest, but not perhaps our worst defeat in the Guinness Premiership this season.

On Friday afternoon we travelled to Leicester in a confident (but not overly so) mood. En route to, and in, the ground, our confidence was endorsed and reinforced by the Tigers’ supporters with whom we spoke - they felt Irish would hand them a lesson and acknowledged our current form, whilst at the same time rightly decrying that their available selection was reduced by having ten of their first-choice players away on international duty. There did appear to be an undercurrent of disenchantment among the Tigers’ fans, who singled out several of their selection with derision.

During the pre-match drills our lads looked good, sharp and focused. It was bitterly cold - so much so that Stan The Man looked like a spider, wearing long black leggings (for which he took stick throughout the evening. Don’t do it again, Scott; it’s just not you!) On the other hand the Tigers squad looked lacklustre. Pat Howard was paying little attention to them at this stage; Andy Goode was practising his kicking from beyond the halfway line – and putting them over with apparent ease.

Warning! Keep our discipline.

Barry, fair play to him, was doing similar and our squad continued their drills with even more determination.

Game On.

I thought for a moment I had missed something. Irish came out as though they were catapulted. They steamed into the Tigers with fair but firm ferocity. Our intentions were clearly signalled. Tigers were on the back foot immediately, giving away a penalty in front of the posts just outside their own 22. Barry converted with ease.

Irish 3 Tigers 0

There then followed a 7 minute period of constant Irish pressure. The pack, ably supported by the backs, were resident inside the Tigers’ 22 and always threatening to push over the whitewash. Ball in hand was good, lineouts were solid and scrummaging determined. It appeared to be only a matter of time before we added to our three points. During this period of pressure, Phil Murphy claimed a try only to be disregarded by Mr Maybank (but subsequently acknowledged by Tigers’ fans as a valid score).

On a rare (at this stage) Tigers’ sortie towards Irish’s 22, Barry Everitt collected the ball and as he moved forward, steadying to clear, Austin Healey was at him like a ferret – it was almost as though he anticipated Barry’s style. He charged down the kick, followed on and touched down under the posts. Try! Andy Goode converted.

Irish 3 Tigers 7

Play at this stage switched from 22 to 22. Good tactical kicking by Mike Catt helped to alleviate pressure on several occasions. Good individual running by Riki Flutey and Scott Staniforth looked promising, the pack came to assist only to be stopped within about a metre of the Tiger’s line – again and again. A surge and touch down over the try line by Kieran Roche was not awarded. Then a Leicester penalty (around 21 mins) - Goode kicked it from about 8-10 metres inside the Irish half

Irish 3 Tigers 10

A period of intense pressure followed, Leicester gaining in obvious confidence and Irish showing obvious signs of frustration, illustrated by our handling errors and scrappy mauling/rucking. From nowhere, Healey offloaded to Ben Kay who immediately gathered momentum and had only one defender to discard on his way to score his try. Goode missed the conversion, but within minutes another Irish infringement led to a Tigers’ penalty, this time Goode made good.

Irish 3 Tigers 18

Irish were clearly stuttering at this stage. Desperate clearing and poor handling unsettled us even further. Tigers were the team in the ascendancy. In the 41st minute of the first-half, Mike Catt was downed following another Tigers’ assault on the Irish line. Urgent signals to the bench indicated a serious injury. After treatment by our able physios, Mike was assisted from the pitch as the half-time whistle blew.

Half-time Irish 3 – Tigers 18

Pat Howard was grinning from cheek to cheek on the way to the dressing rooms. Our Brian, Toby, Peter and Corin looked very worried and concerned, as did many of our team. Not without reason.

The second period saw the immediate introduction of Michael Horak at full-back, with Riki moving to 12 where he immediately looked more comfortable.

Play continued and was concentrated again between the 22 metre lines. Tigers were moving with apparent ease and Irish with a bent towards individual effort, rather than teamwork - efforts which were stifled with ease by Tigers.

Six minutes into the half Phil M. was replaced by Juan Leguizamon, Ben Willis by the energetic and influential Paul Hodgson, and Neal Hatley by Michael Collins. We were fast running out of replacements.

Two minutes later George Chuter finished off a fierce Tigers’ drive that could not be contained by Irish’s pack. Goode converted, again.

Irish 3 Tigers 25

The Exiles’ deflation was palpable. Individualism reigned supreme. The unit we had seen during the previous five matches was derailed and the faces on the bench became creased with frowns.

The individuals who shone at this desperate stage included Nick Kennedy who played out of his skin, Barry Everitt who ran his heart out and on several occasions almost broke through, and Paddy Leguizamon whose strength - along with that of Faan Rautenbach - did cause Leicester problems. We were still trying – but not as a unit.

Irish might have had an advantage as Ben Kay was binned

On the hour mark, Pat Howard introduced a clutch of unforced substitutions – such was their confidence.

It was during this period also that Declan Danaher lost the plot completely. There had been a few handbags throughout – but nothing more than ‘hold me back and let me at him.’ Declan, however, decided for whatever reason that he would swap punches with anyone, even though Irish were pushing big-time for a try. He was fortunate not to be red carded. Declan, the team comes first – afters are for afterwards. Red mist must not reign supreme.

We sacrificed another penalty to Goode on 65 minutes and the crowd started shouting for the try bonus point. The Tigers’ players’ ears literally went back - they were up for it.

Irish 3 Tigers 28 – oh woe is me.

Coetzee, Casey and Roche were replaced in the 65th minute, Coetzee with an injured hand. Coetzee was replaced by Robbie Russell, who in turn hardly had time to work up a sweat, as he was sin-binned four minutes later - something we could well have done without. There then followed a series of uncontested scrums which at this point appeared to suit Tigers down to the ground. Irish wanted to re-introduce Faan Rautenbach as hooker, despite a nasty looking cut on the bridge of his nose, but Referee Maybank did not agree.

Leicester finished off what for them was a very rewarding evening with a try worked by the powerful running of replacement Seru Rabeni for Michael Holford to touch down. Conversion Andy Goode.

Irish kept pushing for that consolation try and conversion – out of pride. The Tigers’ defence remained as impenetrable as it had been all evening. They did to us what we did to Parma - locked the door!

Irish 3 Tigers 35 – the full time score, after a forty-nine minute second-half.

What went wrong?

We were beaten by a better and more hyped-up team on the night. What might have been is neither here nor there; for seventy minutes we played as individuals, not as a team.

On leaving the pitch our lads looked shell-shocked. Bob Casey, while waiting to see off the Leicester players, looked like he was trying to outstare the electric scoreboard which so loudly blazed out the final score.

The coaching staff and the squad will learn invaluable lessons from this defeat and will work to rectify deficiencies. There is a considerably larger squad than last season.

Brian Smith is said to have targeted ten points during the November period of the Premiership. He also warned there will be set-backs. This was one. The team achieved 13 and reached third in the table. Not bad in anybody’s book – let’s applaud them – loudly!

As is usual the supporters (about 100) stayed back to proudly applaud our team and staff off the pitch. As usual, they responded with big smiles and a thank you.

What next?
The future is London Irish Green.
· We have Cardiff Blues for next Sunday – it is NOT meaningless!
· We have Agen home and away – two big wins essential

Then we are back to business - Saracens and Wasps in quick succession. Target Eight Points and ideally two Bonus Points for eight tries! Perfectly achievable.

London Irish - 15 Riki Flutey; 14 Scott Staniforth; 13 Rodd Penney;
12 Mike Catt (C) MBE; 11 Justin Bishop; 10 Barry Everitt; 9 Ben Willis;
1 Neil Hatley; 2 Danie Coetzee; 3 Faan Rautenbach; 4 Bob Casey; 5 Nick Kennedy; 6 Kieran Roche; 7 Declan Danaher; 8 Phil Murphy.

16 Michael Collins (replaced Neil Hatley on 52 mins); 17 Robbie Russell (replaced Danie Coetzee on 64 mins – sin binned 4 mins later); 18 Richard Skuse (replaced Faan Rautenbach after 59 mins); 19 Ryan Strudwick (replaced Bob Casey on 65 mins); 20 Juan M. Legiuzamon replaced Phil Murphy on 46 mins); 21 Paul Hodgson (replaced Ben Willis on 52 mins);
21 Michael Horak (Replaced Mike Catt on 40 mins)

Leicester Tigers - 15 Sam Vesty; 14 Leon Lloyd; 13 Danny Hipkiss;
12 Matt Cornwell; 11 Ollie Smith; 10 Andy Goode; 9 Austin Healey (C);
1 Alegandro Moreno; 2 George Chuter; 3 Darren Morris; 4 James Hamilton; 5 Ben Kay; 6 Will Johnson; 7 Shane Jennings; 8 Brett Deacon.

16 James Buckland (replaced George Chuter on 70 mins); 17 Michael Holford (replaced Darren Morris on 61 mins); 18 Tom Croft; 19 Luke Abraham (replaced Shane Jennings on 54 mins); 20 Neil Cole (replaced Austin Healey on 70 mins); 21 Ross Broadfoot (replaced Matt Cornwell on 70 mins); 22 Seru Rabeni (replaced Leon Lloyd on 60 mins)

Referee – Roy Maybank (ably assisted by Austin Healey)

Matt Hampson – A Reminder

During the break we were reminded about Matt Hampson, the Tigers’ young prop who was very seriously injured whilst at work (yes, playing professional rugby is work) and remains in a serious condition. The prognosis is that Matt will not be able to move from the neck down. He is currently unable to breathe unaided, although it is hoped that the aid will be withdrawn at some stage.

The fund-raising by the Tigers continues and is now a declared Trust Fund for Matt, the purpose of which is to provide some quality of life for this unfortunate player. Various initiatives are ongoing, including a sponsored presidential slim.

There are so many appeals for worthy causes, but this one to the rugby fraternity is special. Details of arrangements for support are on www.leicestertigers.com.

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by OxonRob on Tue Nov 29, 2005 8:59 am

Thanks for a nice report, Jim.

You have been hiding your light under a bushel all these years, haven't you?
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by Shawshank on Tue Nov 29, 2005 4:43 pm

Interesting report Jim.

Just to disagree about the Cardiff game. I reckon it is totally meaningless. We can't qualify, there are then 2 games against Agen thereafter before the real business of the season starts up v Sarries on 27 Dec.

Not even sure if Cardiff is useful as a "practise" match - frankly the squad would be better off having a week off and then re-focus v Agen.
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