Ir­ish put brave Richmond to the sword in fi­nal warm-up

The Rugby Paper - - News - ■ By NEALE HAR­VEY

LON­DON Ir­ish supremo Nick Kennedy de­clared his pro­moted side ready for Pre­mier­ship duty af­ter a con­vinc­ing vic­tory over gal­lant Richmond.

Steve Hill’s Cham­pi­onship out­fit en­joyed pos­i­tive pas­sages of play but were ul­ti­mately out­gunned by a rapidly gelling Ir­ish team whose for­wards look the part and should this week be bol­stered by the ad­di­tion of ‘tri­al­ist’ Franco van der Merwe.

It was all-ac­tion Scot­land flanker Blair Cowan who led the way, how­ever, as the Ex­iles notched eight tries from eight dif­fer­ent scor­ers to head into Satur­day’s topflight opener against Har­lequins on a high af­ter a hugely en­cour­ag­ing pre­sea­son. Kennedy told The Rugby

Pa­per: “We’ve had three good pre-sea­son games, six or seven great weeks of train­ing where the guys have been su­perb and we’ve re­ally de­vel­oped our game from the good things we put in place in the Cham­pi­onship.

“Har­lequins at Twick­en­ham doesn’t get any bet­ter and we’ll have a real good buzz and en­ergy about us this week. We’ll ar­rive there ready to go.”

Richmond dom­i­nated the open­ing ex­changes with­out pen­e­trat­ing a rock solid Ir­ish de­fence and the vis­i­tors struck first when, fol­low­ing Alex Lew­ing­ton’s jink­ing run, David Paice burst clear be­fore the ball was worked wide for Cowan to cross.

Lew­ing­ton threat­ened again as Ir­ish found their range and the sec­ond try ar­rived on 14 min­utes when Petrus Du Plessis fin­ished a li­ne­out drive.

Richmond re­sponded and Ir­ish did well to re­pel Jono Wood­ward on the charge, but the home side’s respite was brief as Tommy Bell broke away be­fore re­leas­ing Lew­ing­ton. His in­side pass found Ofisa Tre­vi­ranus, who sent Fer­gus Mulchrone over.

More de­ter­mined Ir­ish de­fence held Richmond at bay as the tier two side bat­tered away for ten solid min­utes with­out re­ward, be­fore Cowan even­tu­ally pulled off an ex­cel­lent

turnover that en­abled the danger­ous Lew­ing­ton to break clear.

Richmond scram­bled back, then re­pelled a fiveme­tre scrum, but Ir­ish had their tails up and when Bren­dan McKib­bin launched Mulchrone through a gap, the cen­tre fed Cowan who drew the last man be­fore putting Topsy Ojo in at the cor­ner.

Bell’s cross-kick nar­rowly eluded Lew­ing­ton as Ir­ish came again and try No.5 ar­rived when Mar­shall ex­pertly sent Tre­vi­ranus storm­ing through. He put McKib­bin un­der the posts, with Bell notch­ing his fourth con­ver­sion for a 33-0 half-time lead.

Bell was the only Ir­ish starter to reap­pear, but the tran­si­tion was seam­less as Aseli Tikoiro­tuma and Napo­lioni Nalaga com­bined to re­lease Sen­i­tiki Nay­alo. Ben Franks was heav­ily in­volved as Ir­ish pressed and Isaac Cur­tisHar­ris bagged the try.

Richmond got on the board when Bell was charged down and the alert Cameron Mitchell pounced for a morale-boost­ing score. Then, fol­low­ing more con­certed pres­sure, Jack All­cock added a sec­ond home try from a well-worked li­ne­out drive.

How­ever, Ir­ish struck back im­me­di­ately when Bell and Greig Tonks com­bined to send Ben Ran­som down the right and he cut in­side to score.

Cowan, hav­ing re­turned for the in­jured Nay­alo (shoul­der), was held-up as Ir­ish pressed again, but ob­du­rate de­fence from brave Richmond de­layed try No.8 un­til Josh McNally col­lected a li­ne­out and David Porecki plunged over.

Richmond were ul­ti­mately well beaten but head coach Hill was far from dis­heart­ened: “We showed great heart against a side full of in­ter­na­tion­als,” he said. “We only lost the sec­ond half 17-12 so we’ll take a lot of con­fi­dence from that.”

Cowan looks like a man on a mis­sion af­ter be­ing over­looked for Scot­land’s re­cent train­ing camp. He said: “A year in the Cham­pi­onship doesn’t do much for se­lec­tion but I love the in­ten­sity of the Pre­mier­ship and I’m aim­ing to hit top form.”

Run­ning away with it: Bren­dan McKib­bin, left, and Blair Cowan carry for Lon­don Ir­ish

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