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Sunday, 14 August 2016

Harlequins lose pre-season friendly against London Irish

The start of 2016-17 Rugby Union premiership season is fast approaching.

Yesterday the new-look Harlequins under Director of Rugby John Kingston welcomed London Irish to the Twickenham Stoop in a pre-season friendly – a memorial game in the Cunningham-Duncombe Series, remembering Jarrod Cunningham (London Irish) and Nick Duncombe (Harlequins).

The last time these two teams met Quins sealed the relegation of the Exiles out of the top tier of English rugby.
Some revenge, perhaps, on the cards for Irish? Or were Harlequins looking to seal their dominance over the visiting side?

Karl Dickson led out the new breed of Quins talent: the likes of Robshaw, Care, Brown, Marler sitting this game out.

The visitors kicked off the match and earned the first put-in at the scrum in the Quins’ half. The debate of scrums slowing down games lingers on, not helped by a multiple-set scrum at The Stoop.

Free kick to the Exiles who took it quickly, ran ball in hand forcing their way into the 22. An attempted chip over landed safely in Quins hands before finding touch. The hosts stole the first lineout ball and kicked to safety but this only allowed the visitors to build their attack once more.

Quins had to stand firm with their defensive effort as Irish earned an attacking scrum just a few metres from the try line. With another failing scrum, Quins were awarded a penalty and kicked for a lineout, albeit still within their own half.

8 minutes into the first half and Quins finally put a string of passes together before kicking high. Despite competition for the ball, Irish came away with it and earned another penalty lineout which they secured. Irish spread the ball far and wide but with pin-point precision. Breaking through the defensive line, the ball reached Exile no. 7 Blair Cowan who crossed the whitewash in the 10th minute. Converted. Harlequins 0 – 7 London Irish.

Another lineout to Irish and another attack, this time brought swiftly to an end with a knock-on. Time off as Quins no. 5 needed medical attention and a welcome break for the home side to regroup.

Scrum then penalty to the hosts. They found touch for a lineout just outside the visiting 22. Ball secured, maul formed before the ball was passed to the centres. Quins started to build momentum. Thumping tackles from Irish could be felt reverberating around The Stoop, slowing the attack. Scrum to Irish and another time off for treatment, this time for the visitors.

Neither side were performing well in the scrum and a penalty was awarded to Irish. They secured lineout ball and kicked long only for the ball to be gathered by the hosts and returned. A quick lineout for the visitors allowed them to gather momentum but a superb tackle halted their progress. A penalty was awarded to the hosts as Irish illegally got hold of the ball in the ruck. Quins no. 2 Joe Gray left the field for a Head Injury Assessment with a quarter left of the first half. No. 16 Dave Ward came on in his place.

Quins regrouped but progress was slow with a heavy defensive effort from Irish pushing back the hosts. Quins were forced to kick but it came to nothing with Irish gathering and kicking into touch just outside their own 22.

London Irish made their first replacement with no. 17 Court on for 1 Smallbone after 21 minutes.

Quins won lineout ball. They lost possession in a sloppy pass and Irish kicked for a chase. The hosts gathered the ball first. Dickson box-kicked on; Irish gathered but ended up in touch. Quins took a quick lineout and broke through the defence but with little support, they opted to kick. HIA reversal with Gray returning with 17 minutes left of the first half.

Irish kicked long for Quins to come again however the hosts lost possession in the ruck with a scrum awarded to the visitors. The set-piece failed again for both teams and referee J P Doyle was left scratching his head.

A penalty was awarded to Irish who kicked hoping to gather the ball. Quins, however, were alert to it resulting in a scrum to Quins. Possession did not last long before the Exiles earned their own put-in. A successful scrum and Irish passed to their fly-half who miss-kicked into touch. Quins took a quick lineout. A lot of play on the halfway line but very little territorial gain.

Ellis, Court and De Chaves on for Irish as ex-Quins Robson came off as well as McKibben, Franks and Paice. 10 minutes left of the first half.

Scrum to the Exiles which was once again upgraded to a penalty. They kicked for a lineout deep in the opposition half but lost the ball to Quins who earned a penalty of their own, finding touch just outside the Irish 22.

The Exiles stole lineout ball and made strides to the Quins’ 22 but lost possession. Quins kicked long forcing Irish to backtrack. They gathered and kicked high, taken superbly by the hosts’ no. 15 Morris. The ball was returned to the opposition who misjudged their kick handing advantage to Quins.

Irish once again stole possession in the lineout but knocked-on handing another scrum to the hosts on the Irish 22.

Dickson fed, retrieved and passed to the centres. Back to the fly-half and out to the wing. Quins were desperately trying to keep ball in hand but made very little ground, eventually losing possession in a knock-on. The Exiles played advantage and ran the ball from one end of the pitch to the other with no. 14 Ross Neil scoring a try for the visitors in the 38th minute. Conversion added: Harlequins 0 – 14 London Irish.

More replacements for the hosts as Twomey came off making way for Merrick. The restart was kicked long into the visitors’ 22. Lineout to Irish but they were penalised. The hosts kicked for another lineout and secured possession however a grab and drive failed to break through the strong defence. A spill from Stanley after a thumping tackle from Tonks brought the first half to an end.

Half Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 0 – 14 London Irish

A short kick got proceedings underway in the second half.

The hosts made good ground with ball in hand but play was stopped to allow medics onto the pitch: Charlie Matthews the man in need. Matthews managed to walk from the field and was replaced by Dave Ward.

A scrum restarted the game deep in the visiting half. Quins kept possession but a chip through handed the ball to Irish. The ball went into touch and Quins won the lineout but again lost possession handing a scrum to the Exiles. Irish box-kicked to safety, gathered neatly by Ross Chisholm.

The hosts started to build momentum once more until Dickson box-kicked from a ruck. Possession changed several times as the teams kicked for territory before the hosts opted to run with ball in hand. Penalty to the home side kicked into touch for an attacking line-out in the Irish 22.

Quins won lineout ball, formed a rolling maul and passed for the centres to attack.

A scramble under the posts and Quins halved their deficit: Merrick try, converted by Jackson with 31 minutes left: Harlequins 7 – 14 London Irish.

Hopper on, Stanley off for the hosts.

Irish attacked quickly from the restart but knocked-on under tackle in the Quins’ half.

Dickson fed and retrieved the ball from the scrum. A superb offload by the fly-half Jackson was deemed to have travelled forward handing a scrum to the Exiles, still within Quins’ territory however the hosts were awarded a penalty from the set piece.

They took it quickly but knocked-on. Another failed scrum by the visitors, however Quins kept possession.

The hosts started to believe and made successful offloads under tackle, keeping the game going rather than slowing for a ruck. Despite this belief a free kick was awarded against them, returning play into the Quins’ 22.

Quins started putting in some good tackles but the Exiles were happy to build their attack gradually, earning an advantage in front of the posts. The players were called back for a scrum.

Despite a sloppy attack which saw the ball going forward bouncing off a boot, a try was awarded as Siniteki crossed the whitewash. Irish doubled their lead with less than a quarter of the game left to play: Harlequins 7 – 21 London Irish.

Chisholm had good footwork and pace for the hosts but the Exiles were awarded possession and again attacked the line with a straightforward run in for a try by Atkins, converted: Harlequins 7 – 28 London Irish.

Only 15 minutes left.

Irish attacked from the restart but handed possession to Quins who ran with ball in hand. A tussle for the ball on the Irish 22 saw the Exiles kick into touch. Quins secured the lineout but knocked-on handing a scrum to the visitors.

Penalty to the Exiles who found touch 5 metres from the Quins try line. They secured lineout ball but Quins intercepted a loose pass. The ball was box-kicked out of the 22 but with possession returning to the visitors, danger was ever present. Free kick to the hosts allowed Quins to push on up the field before Chisholm sent a crossfield kick into the arms of Mikalcius who crossed for a try, however the conversion attempt hit the upright: Harlequins 12 – 28 London Irish.

A long restart kept play in the Quins’ half. The hosts struggled to get over the halfway line and a knock-on under tackle handed another scrum to Irish.

Less than 5 minutes left of this disappointing game, and a reset scrum used up even more time.

Eventually the ball was fed and retrieved by the visitors who attacked the line. Only a strong group effort from Quins bundling the Exiles into touch halted progression.

The hosts won lineout ball but a miss-judged chip over landed squarely in the Exiles arms. The ball was spilled just short of the try line. Quins kicked long but did not chase.

Lineout to Irish as the clock counted down and J P Doyle brought proceedings to a close.

Full Time at the Twickenham Stoop: Harlequins 12 – 28 London Irish
posted by Radio Jackie News Team @ 1:00 pm  

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