Wokingham Today

Exiles lose thrilling contest


London Irish 29 Gloucester 33

DECLAN Kidney says London Irish must learn how to close out games as his first game in charge ended in defeat after a thrilling contest against Gloucester.

A bumper crowd of over 15,000 packed into Madejski Stadium as the new era under Kidney coincided with the annual St Patrick’s Party and it looked as though they could be treated to just a third league win of the campaign.

Exiles came flying out of the traps with tries from Josh McNally and Piet van Zyl helping to open up a 17-0 lead inside the first 20 minutes.

But by half-time Gloucester were 19-17 in front after an astonishin­g Irish collapse.

The visitors kept the momentum after the restart to push 33-17 clear before tries from Theo Brophy

Clews and Joe Cokanasiga set up a grandstand finale with the arrears reduced to 33-29.

But Gloucester managed the clock well to close out the victory and push Irish closer to relegation.

“I saw loads of things to encourage me, but we still lost,” said Kidney.

“There’s plenty of good things there but at the end of the day there was a game there and we came off second so I wouldn’t be inclined to let them settle for that because I think we’re better than that.

“I thought the way the game went, you could break it into four quarters.

“The first quarter we did reasonably OK. It took a lot of energy from us to do it but we managed to get points and we managed to do what we wanted to do.

“In the second quarter, we probably need to learn how to manage our game and that’s not any one person, I think that’s everybody.

“The third quarter, there’s also some issues with that that I know we can address.

“I’m encouraged because I believe that they’re under our control and then in the fourth quarter, when the finishers were on, I thought we finished quite well.

“I know that winning can be a habit and losing can be a habit, we just need to learn how to finish off these games.”

Kidney made two changes to the side which lost at Wasps in Nick Kennedy’s final game in charge back on March 3 with fit again McNally and Brophy Clews coming in for Teofilo Paulo and Greig Tonks.

And the hosts got off to a superb start, getting a deserved try as McNally burst through to mark his comeback in style, having missed the last five months following surgery to repair a hole in the heart.

It was all London Irish and they duly bagged their second try of the afternoon before the 20-minute mark when a line-out drive found van Zyl to dart through a gap and score.

James Marshall’s extras extended the lead to 17-0.

And it almost got even better for the hosts with another break into the Gloucester 22, but the ball was knocked on at the vital moment.

That seemed to spur the visitors on as they soon embarked on an eightminut­e blitz which completely swung the contest in their favour.

It began when an Irish line-out on halfway was lost, allowing Gloucester to break forwards with James Hanson eventually crashing over between the posts.

Tom Marshall was the next to score and with the Exiles defence all at sea, the Cherry and Whites grabbed a third try in quick succession with Lewis Ludlow dabbing down in the corner as one of three men unmarked on the flank.

The momentum continued after the restart and Kidney’s men had no answer when Mark Atkinson waltzed across the whitewash before Marshall acrobatica­lly dove in at the corner.

Billy Burns’ brilliant conversion gave Gloucester a 33-17 advantage heading into the final 20 minutes.

But Irish would not go down without a fight, sparking hopes of an unlikely revival when Brophy Clews showed good feet to ride two challenges before stretching across the line to the delight of the roaring crowd.

And the Exiles set up the grandstand finale when Cokanasiga burst through numerous Gloucester defenders to score in the corner and reduce the deficit to just four points with seven minutes to play.

But Irish could not find a way to build another meaningful attack, allowing the visitors to run down the clock and close out the narrow win.

Despite defeat, Irish did pick up two bonus points to move to within 10 points of second-bottom Worcester Warriors but now with only four games to play, starting at Harlequins on April 7.

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