May pushes for au­tumn in­clu­sion as Tigers hold off bat­tling Ir­ish

The Observer - Sport - - RUGBY UNION - Ger­ard Meagher Made­jski Sta­dium

A tale of two wingers, as Alex Lew­ing­ton earned what may prove a valu­able point for Lon­don Ir­ish, all the while Jonny May con­tin­ues to make his case to Ed­die Jones. It was still a fifth straight de­feat for Ir­ish, but Lew­ing­ton’s last-gasp try, al­lied to Tommy Bell’s dead­eye kick­ing, at least boosts morale with a two-week break for Europe on the hori­zon.

Up un­til then it could have hardly gone closer to script for both sides – May con­tin­u­ing his fine try-scor­ing record for the Tigers and Ir­ish once more be­ing taught the harsh les­son that slow starts will be pun­ished in the Premier­ship. May was at his elas­tic best through­out and he now has six tries in six Tigers ap­pear­ances, while Ge­orge Ford’s part­ner­ship with Matt Toomua gets bet­ter by the week – the Aus­tralian par­tic­u­larly im­pres­sive here.

“I think [Jonny] is eas­ily the best left winger in Eng­land,” said Le­ices­ter’s head coach, Matt O’Con­nor. “I’d cer­tainly pick him. To be fair, I could have scored that try, a lit­tle bit of credit needs to go to Matty and Ge­orge as well. But he’s a threat, de­fen­sively he’s good, he’s com­mit­ted, he fin­ishes and cre­ates op­por­tu­ni­ties, and that’s what we want. He’ll be re­ally close to Test se­lec­tion.”

Ir­ish can take so­lace in the fact that they are get­ting closer to a sec­ond win of the sea­son, hav­ing failed to earn any­thing from their five matches since beat­ing Harlequins on the open­ing week­end. “I’m proud of the boys; they’ve got mas­sive hearts and they’re all fight­ers,” said the Lon­don Ir­ish di­rec­tor of rugby, Nick Kennedy. “They will fight un­til the 83rd minute and are end­ing very strong, but we need to stop giv­ing our­selves these moun­tains to climb.”

Le­ices­ter will, how­ever, won­der how they were not out of sight by half-time. They had their first try af­ter just three min­utes and, with a bit more com­po­sure in the Ex­iles’ 22, Le­ices­ter might have had the bonus point by the break.

Nick Malouf scored the opener, a sim­ple fin­ish af­ter Sam Har­ri­son had darted up the mid­dle. Ford added two penal­ties be­fore the break but there were oc­ca­sions when the Eng­land fly-half had so much space he ap­peared to not know what to do with it.

Gareth Owen im­pressed on his Le­ices­ter de­but, while May and Mathew Tait also made good yards with ball in hand, but, in truth, Ir­ish – who missed 14 tack­les in the first half – al­lowed them to. Some­what tar­nish­ing his ex­cel­lent start, how­ever, Owen was sent to the sin-bin for a dan­ger­ous tackle on Greig Tonks, al­low­ing Bell to score Ir­ish’s first points.

Con­sid­er­ing Ir­ish have been outscored by their op­po­nents in the six first halves this sea­son by more than 100 points, but are in the black af­ter the in­ter­val, there was rea­son for hope among the home ranks. It seemed all but ex­tin­guished, how­ever, when Will Evans, im­pres­sive on his first ap­pear­ance of the sea­son, ghosted past Aseli Tikoiro­tuma for the Tigers’ sec­ond try. Ford con­verted be­fore a sec­ond Bell penalty, but Blair Cowan’s con­verted try brought Ir­ish back to within eight. There was lit­tle sub­tlety to it, but Malouf ’s poor tackle al­lowed the Scot­land back-row the space to score.

May fi­nally had the try his ef­forts war­ranted shortly af­ter the hour, cruising over af­ter Toomua’s de­light­ful long pass, but Ir­ish came again through David Paice af­ter Ol­lie Hoskins burst up the mid­dle. The deficit was eight points with 10 min­utes to go – Ir­ish des­per­ately seek­ing the los­ing bonus point, Le­ices­ter a fourth try – but it was Lew­ing­ton who had the fi­nal say.

Solo ef­fort: Will Evans is out on his own as he scores Le­ices­ter’s sec­ond try in their win over Lon­don Ir­ish. Henry Browne/ Getty Im­ages

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