Exiles keep hopes alive
Exiles grind out last-gasp win over visiting Quins
By Simon Dilger. Last Updated: 19/04/08 10:56pm
London Irish's play-off hopes may be down but they are not yet out after a battling 13-6 victory over Harlequins on Saturday.
The Exiles fought hard to carve out the result and keep their hopes of a place in next year's Heineken Cup alive.
In a match that will be remembered more for its grit, commitment and grim determination than for its beauty, it took 35 minutes before the first points appeared on the board.
The home side, who dominated for the first quarter had the first chance to open the scoring with a straightforward penalty on 16 minutes.
But Peter Hewat saw his kick bounce back off the post, allowing Quins to bring the ball back out and away from their 22.
A searching kick deep into the Quins 22 from another penalty after 24 minutes set up the first seriously dangerous looking attack of the game.
Irish spread the ball wide from the lineout and Quins found themselves desperately defending their goal line.
Cue an outrageous piece of audacity from Mike Brown, who chose to run rather than kick clear from behind his own try line.
A somewhat surprised looking Tom Williams took the offload when Brown was inevitably caught in the tackle and the full back was in turn bundled into touch on his 22.
Adrian Jarvis finally opened the scoring 35 minutes in, placing a perfectly judged penalty kick through the middle of the posts to nose Quins ahead and go into the break 3-0 up.
Four minutes after the restart Hewat had another chance, albeit a difficult long distance effort. But, sacrificing accuracy for distance the full back drifted his kick well wide of the posts.
Declan Danaher went close for the home side on 48 minutes and Quins were saved only by a desperate covering tackle on the line by Ugo Monye.
When Quins were penalised for handling in the ruck on the 50 minute mark, Irish opted for the lineout and the chance to put the visitors under real pressure five metres from their line.
But a resolute Harlequins defence quickly smothered the static looking Exile attack, driving Irish back and winning the turnover ball.
Irish levelled the scores with 14 minutes left on the clock thanks to a penalty in front of the posts from Eoghan Hickey, replacing the injured Hewat.
And it was Hickey again who edged the home side in front just four minutes later, slotting a another sitter in front of the posts to take Irish into a 6-3 lead with ten minutes to go.
Jarvis tried to redress the balance with a long range penalty on 76 minutes but the distance proved too much and the ball drifted wide.
Then, on 77 minutes, Irish effectively sealed the win, Topsy Ojo crossing in the corner with a brilliant finish after latching on to a suspiciously forward looking pass from Mapusua.
Jarvis was on target two minutes later to close the gap to seven points and secure the vital losing bonus point for Quins.
Irish will draw encouragement from a hard fought result as they head to Twickenham next week for their Heineken Cup semi-final clash with French giants Toulouse.