It’s no wonder the growing consensus is that the show must go on. An exciting weekend of Premiership matches was rounded off with a final flourish as Oli Hoskins’ latest attempt, turned over by Paddy Jackson’s experts, completed an enthusiastic return by the Irish Londoners to win a draw, testament to their perseverance after difficult few weeks.
It seems that there is a gap in the calendar next weekend with the European competitions being suspended, but surely, if the pandemic allows it, the Premiership clubs will advance in their matches; with this evidence, neutrals would certainly not be disappointed.
However, the harlequins will be with this result. It was a match they missed in the final stages after being 27-15 in favor, and while the Irish racked up three match points after scoring four attempts, the hosts walk away with just two. They too have had their Covid-19 outages lately – their last match against Worcester was canceled while Irish’s last two matches have been canceled, but while both sides deserve credit for their performances, the atmosphere in both locker rooms was obviously different.
“I am quite disappointed,” said Harlequins rugby director Paul Gustard. “It’s a bit of deja vu, we concede a lot at the end of games. We have tried different things but we make too many simple mistakes and we are the architects of our own downfall. It’s the same thing that happens week after week, the team is hurt and upset. We have a bit of pain from time to time, but it’s too much pain. “
Quins will regret his inability to close out the game as Scott Steele’s attempt in the second half extended his lead to 12 points, but his troubles began when Archie White received a yellow card for a knock-on with 13 minutes to go. Albert Tuisue, one of Ireland’s most prominent artists, stepped forward to bring the visitors closer before Hoskins finished off from a driving lineout. Jackson’s conversion was difficult, from the outside on the left, but he nailed it and even had a chance to win it with a penalty – he pushed his kick from the middle to the right.
The Harlequins started on the rise and threatened down the left with Alex Dombrandt approaching the try line, only for London’s Irish scrum-half Ben Meehan to put No. 8 in touch. It is unfortunate for Dombrandt that his failure to convert occurred right in front of the spectator Eddie Jones, who is still not convinced of the player’s suitability to try rugby.
The hosts made pay for their earlier superiority with opening points, Smith on target with a penalty directly in front of the goal posts, but the Harlequins coaches will be furious as the London Irish took a surprise lead with the first try. Curtis Rona has been among the Exiles ‘most impressive players this season, but the ease with which he crashed into Quins’ defense with a short ball from Meehan will not have been to Gustard’s liking.
Smith’s good attempt in response will no doubt have been – the fly-half converting for good measure – in what was turning out to be an entertaining encounter with both sides displaying commendable commitment to the game. The Irish thought they had regained the lead when Hoskins broke through at close range. However, a knock-on denied the Aussie, and a similar scoreboard on the other end from Mike Brown allowed Harlequins to extend their lead to 17-7. To their credit, given the tribulations of recent weeks, the Irish were not spoiled and an attempt by hooker Motu Matu’u before the break kept the deficit at five.
Smith and Jackson exchanged second-half penalties with the impressive Tom Parton closing in on the left for the Irish, but Steele’s touchdown, after Dombrandt’s powerful carry, initially seemed to be enough for Harlequins. They’ll kick themselves that it wasn’t, but they won’t take anything away from Irish’s excellent ending.
“Hard is a word [to describe recent events]; it’s been frustrating, ”said London Irish head coach Les Kiss. “Everyone, at all levels, is doing everything possible to get the games played. The guys had to train at home and they deserve credit for making sure they are in good shape and ready for this challenge. It’s a good reward to get three points and a slight disappointment not to get four. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism