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