Planet Rugby

Exiles storm fortress Dublin

09th October 2009 21:54

Share:

Ryan Lamb kicks a winner

Ryan Lamb shapes up for the crucial kick

Leinster's Heineken Cup defence opener ended in anti-climax on Friday, with London Irish pipping the champions to a 12-9 victory.

This was not a Heineken Cup classic, but it was classic Heineken Cup. Neither side gave away a blade of grass of territory with ease, forcing the fly-halves and full-backs into a gruelling territorial battle of the boot. The discipline of the defensive patterns from both teams was as admirable as it was stifling. Both teams dug as deep as they could but there was just no space to be found.

Tom Homer of London Irish was a frequent target for high balls early on, with Leinster's kickers perhaps attacking his inexperience, but he passed the test with a couple of wobbles. Beyond that, Leinster had few ideas.

The physicality of the Exiles defence proved that they have some concrete foundations to support the pretty facework they've been showing off so far in the Guinness Premiership season. Leinster threw all the heavy furniture at the Exiles' defence, but the white wall did not budge one inch. Frustration set into the blue shirts and Irish could well have nicked it.

Nick Kennedy and Bob Casey had a whale of a time at the line-outs stealing all manner of Leinster ball - they had pilfered five from eleven midway through the second half. It evened up the defeats they were suffering in the kicking battle and meant that Leinster were forced into other means - often illegal - to stifle the Exiles' attacks and retain their ball.

Things might have been different had the Leinstermen managed to take either of their two gilt-edged first-half opportunities. In the first minute, after some ferocious rucking, Brian O'Driscoll broke away towards the Exiles' posts but found himself short of the necessary immediate support in the tackle by Sailosi Tagicakibau.

In the 24th minute, Isa Nacewa broke and offloaded to Luke Fitzgerald, but again there was nobody on his shoulder as Chris Malone made the cover tackle.

In contrast, Irish hung in there and took opportunities without ever really making one themselves. Their scrum was under heavy pressure early on, but strangely, the sin-binning of hooker David Paice - along with Leinster number eight for fighting - reinforced them as Danie Coetzee came on for the set pieces. Even when Paice came back on, the scrum problem had been shored up. Another Leinster threat nullified.

Gradually, as Leinster's superiority up front seeped away and Steffon Armitage found his moments to steal the ball, the men in blue conceded more and more penalties. Peter Hewat landed two in the first half, but couldn't find his radar with one in the second, nor range with another. But Jonny Sexton did not get those opportunities in the second half as Leinster's ideas ran dry. It became London Irish's match to win or lose, with the crowd noise falling away as gradually as Leinster's pattern of attack.

Ryan Lamb gave his team the lead with a majestic penalty on 66 minutes, but there were more moments for the Exiles to survive.

Steffon Armitage's work at the breakdown was phenomenal, never more so than when a sliced kick set O'Driscoll away and then Fitzgerald, with Armitage slowing the ball down at the latter's tackle just enough for the white defence to re-organise and force Sexton into a forward pass.

Discipline had to hold, but it didn't. Chris Hala'Ufia was penalised for an injudicious moment with the boot and Sexton equalised at 9-9.

But then with a minute to go, Kevin McLaughlin was caught offside, and Lamb stepped up to land a majestic penalty from 40m to make it 12-9.

There was still more to come. Leinster strung phase after phase together across the field in the final 30 seconds, with Jonny Sexton and then Bernard Jackman so nearly getting away. Leinster were furious that there was no award of a high tackle on Sexton by Hala'Ufia, but the Irish defence, through hook and crook, held firm for a famous win.

Man of the match: In a game of breakdowns, Steffon Armitage's work was magnificent and went much of the way to stumping Leinster's ambitions. But he might like to share the champers with Nick Kennedy for the work at the line-out.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Pens: Sexton 3

For London Irish:
Pens: Hewat 2, Lamb 2

Yellow cards: Heaslip (Leinster, 28, fighting), Paice (London Irish, 28, fighting)

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Shane Horgan, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Johanthan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Nathan Hines, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Mike Ross, 2 John Fogarty, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Bernard Jackman, 17 Ronan McCormack, 18 CJ Van Der Linde, 19 Malcolm O'Kelly, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 Stephen Keogh, 22 Shaun Berne, 23 Rob Kearney.

London Irish: 15 Peter Hewat, 14 Tom Homer, 13 Elvis Seveali'i, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Chris Malone, 9 Paul Hodgson, 8 Chris Hala'Ufia, 7 Steffon Armitage, 6 Declan Danaher, 5 Bob Casey, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 David Paice, 1 Clarke Dermody.
Replacements: 16 Danie Coetzee, 17 Dan Murphy, 18 Paulica Ion, 19 Andy Perry, 20 Richard Thorpe, 21 Jamie Lennard, 22 Ryan Lamb, 23 Alfredo Lalanne.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Eric Soulan (France), Bernard Dal Maso (France)
Television match official: Jean-Christophe Gastou (France)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 23
Saracens vs NorthamptonSaracens vs Northampton Preview
London Welsh vs Leicester TigersLondon Welsh vs Leicester Tigers Preview
Friday , November 28
Bath vs Harlequins19:45
Saturday , November 29
Leicester Tigers vs Wasps15:00
Exeter vs Saracens16:30
More Aviva Premiership fixtures
International Match
Sunday , November 23
Georgia vs JapanGeorgia vs Japan Preview
Saturday , November 29
Wales vs South Africa14:30
England vs Australia14:30
More International Match fixtures
Guinness PRO12
Sunday , November 23
Treviso vs LeinsterTreviso vs Leinster Preview
Edinburgh vs Cardiff BluesEdinburgh vs Cardiff Blues Preview
Friday , November 28
Munster vs Ulster19:35
Cardiff Blues vs Treviso19:35
Saturday , November 29
Zebre vs Edinburgh15:00
Leinster vs Ospreys17:15
Connacht vs Scarlets19:30
More Guinness PRO12 fixtures
Top 14
Saturday , November 29
Oyonnax vs Bordeaux-Begles18:00
Lyon vs Montpellier18:00
La Rochelle vs Bayonne18:00
Castres vs Racing Metro Paris18:00
Toulon vs Clermont Auvergne18:00
More Top 14 fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 22
London Irish 23 - 33 BathLondon Irish vs Bath Report
Exeter 31 - 15 WaspsExeter vs Wasps Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Italy 6 - 22 South AfricaItaly vs South Africa Report
Ireland 26 - 23 AustraliaIreland vs Australia Report
England 28 - 9 SamoaEngland vs Samoa Report
Wales 16 - 34 New ZealandWales vs New Zealand Report
Romania 18 - 9 CanadaRomania vs Canada Report
Scotland 37 - 12 TongaScotland vs Tonga Report
France 13 - 18 ArgentinaFrance vs Argentina Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Friday , November 21
Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale SharksHarlequins vs Sale Sharks Report
Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 GloucesterNewcastle Falcons vs Gloucester Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Fiji 20 - 14 USAFiji vs USA Report
More International Match results
Guinness PRO12
Dragons 12 - 38 MunsterDragons vs Munster Report
Ulster 25 - 16 OspreysUlster vs Ospreys Report
Scarlets 19 - 9 Glasgow WarriorsScarlets vs Glasgow Warriors Report
Connacht 43 - 3 ZebreConnacht vs Zebre Report
More Guinness PRO12 results
Aviva Premiership
Sunday , November 16
Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 SaracensLeicester Tigers vs Saracens Report
Wasps 71 - 7 London WelshWasps vs London Welsh Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Ireland 49 - 7 GeorgiaIreland vs Georgia Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership
Saturday , November 15
Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London IrishSale Sharks vs London Irish Report
Bath 23 - 14 Newcastle FalconsBath vs Newcastle Falcons Report
More Aviva Premiership results
International Match
Romania 13 - 18 JapanRomania vs Japan Report
France 29 - 26 AustraliaFrance vs Australia Report
Scotland 16 - 24 New ZealandScotland vs New Zealand Report
England 28 - 31 South AfricaEngland vs South Africa Report
More International Match results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Exeter828
2Bath828
3Northampton726
4Saracens724
5Wasps820