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