Kid­ney’s new regime stunned as Ir­ish throw away 17-point lead

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Paul Bolton at the Made­jski Sta­dium

They may have a new coach­ing team, but it was the same old story for Lon­don Ir­ish, who ended a tu­mul­tuous week with an­other de­feat that only in­creased their rel­e­ga­tion fears.

For 20 min­utes Ir­ish were un­stop­pable and ap­peared cer­tain to mark the ar­rival of De­clan Kid­ney, the for­mer Ire­land head coach, and Les Kiss, for­mer Ul­ster di­rec­tor of rugby, with a win. But hav­ing stormed into a 17-point lead, the demons re­turned and Ir­ish ca­pit­u­lated as Glouces­ter scored 19 points, in­clud­ing three tries, in a dev­as­tat­ing eight-minute spell.

Ir­ish ral­lied in the fi­nal quar­ter and sal­vaged two bonus points to close the gap on Worces­ter to 10 points, but it is the three points they sur­ren­dered that most con­cerned Kid­ney, whose ap­point­ment as tech­ni­cal con­sul­tant was fol­lowed by the res­ig­na­tion of Nick Kennedy as Ir­ish’s di­rec­tor of rugby.

“I saw loads of things to en­cour­age me, but we still lost,” Kid­ney said. “There were plenty of good things, but at the end of the day there was a game and we came out sec­ond. I wouldn’t be in­clined to let them set­tle for that be­cause I be­lieve we are bet­ter.”

Kid­ney avoided us­ing the word ‘rel­e­ga­tion’, but the con­se­quences of fail­ing to beat Har­lequins at The Stoop in two weeks are ob­vi­ous. “We have an­other mas­sive game against Har­lequins and un­less we per­form well in that match, then all those other things [con­se­quences of rel­e­ga­tion], I am sure you would have to write about them and think about them. But we just need to get our­selves right for that one game. If we try and think about any­thing else we will only bury our­selves,” he said.

Ir­ish’s best crowd of the sea­son, for the an­nual St Pa­trick’s Party, gen­er­ated a lively at­mos­phere in this cav­ernous sta­dium and Josh McNally pro­vided the day’s most heart-warm­ing story by scor­ing a try just 10 min­utes into his Premier­ship come­back, hav­ing un­der­gone surgery for a hole in the heart in Novem­ber.

Scrum-half Piet van Zyl also nipped in for a try in the open­ing quar­ter, in which Ir­ish needed to make just 14 tack­les to Glouces­ter’s 71. But the game changed as soon as Glouces­ter got out of

their own half.

Hooker James Han­son and wing Tom Mar­shall scored from Glouces­ter’s first two at­tacks and they then con­jured a try from noth­ing for flanker Lewis Lud­low, af­ter Willi Heinz wrig­gled free on the left. Mark Atkin­son sliced through for the bonus-point try and Mar­shall soon got his sec­ond try of the day af­ter Atkin­son had again ex­ploited Ir­ish de­fen­sive frail­ties. With the game lost, Ir­ish had no alternative but to throw ev­ery­thing into at­tack. They rat­tled Glouces­ter when Theo Bro­phy-Clews and then Joe Cokanasiga ex­ploited some fee­ble tack­ling, but time ran out on them and it is quickly run­ning out on their Premier­ship stay. Glouces­ter’s win was their first away from King­sholm in the league in four months and it keeps them in the hunt for a play-off place. “We are ex­cited about the win, but there’s noth­ing to get ex­cited about in the sea­son yet,” said Jo­han Ack­er­mann, Glouces­ter head coach. “There’s work to be done be­fore we can get a pat on the shoul­der.”

Kick­ing out: James Mar­shall sends over a con­ver­sion, but Ir­ish were to fall short yet again

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