Irish stun Quins at the Stoop
October 25, 2008
Adam Thompstone barges over to score for London Irish
© Getty Images
London Irish staged another smash-and-grab raid at the Twickenham Stoop to beat Harlequins and keep their Anglo-Welsh Cup ambitions alive.
The Exiles scored 27 unanswered points, including three tries in seven second-half minutes, to overturn a 17-5 deficit and snatch a dramatic victory.
Only a month ago, London Irish fought back from 20-3 down to beat Harlequins in the Premiership. In his match programme notes, Quins director of rugby Dean Richards promised there would be no repeat today. He will be cursing his prediction tonight.
Quins were in charge after a bright opening earned them a 12-0 lead with tries from lock George Robson and winger Charlie Ainsbury. London Irish responded just before the interval through replacement loose forward Richard Thorpe.
Quins re-established their 12-point after the re-start with a lineout drive from Neil McMillan - but the Exiles then sparked into gear with quick-fire tries from Peter Hewat, Adam Thompstone and James Bailey.
Hewat then rounded off the victory in the closing minutes after picking off an interception to seal the try-bonus point. Despite both teams' cup ambitions riding on victory, Richards and Toby Booth both rung the changes.
England's Shane Geraghty made his second start of the season after recovering from injury and there were flashes of his performance that will have pleased the on-looking England backs coach Brian Smith.
But it was Quins' academy winger Seb Stegmann who was heavily involved in the opening exchanges as Harlequins hit London Irish with a high tempo and attacking ambition.
The 19-year-old was halted just short of the line by a brilliant last-ditch challenge from Exiles scrum-half Tom Parker after chasing down Tom Williams' well-weighted chip forward.
London Irish could not clear their lines and Robson drove over for the opening try after six minutes from the back of the lineout. Stegmann was the catalyst once again as Quins produced some brilliant fluid rugby to create a three-man overlap down the left for Ainsbury to score.
Geraghty showed flashes of invention in the first half but the London Irish attacking machine was mis-firing. It took until three minutes before the interval for them to get onto the scoreboard.
Thorpe replaced Jon Fisher and virtually his first action was to attack from the base of a London Irish five-metre scrum and he drove over from the try. Quins threatened to seal the game at the start of the second period.
Parker needed to pull off another try-saving tackle after hooker Chris Brooker burst out of a driving maul - but the respite was brief as Quins executed a classic catch and drive for captain McMillan to score.
It was almost as if that score sparked London Irish into action - and replacement scrum-half Alfredo Lalanne, who only arrived in the country this week, was at the heart of it as the Exiles scored three tries in seven minutes.
Lalanne brought pace and momentum to the Exiles game and Hewat took full advantage, picking a magnificent line to glide through the Quins defence for a brilliant solo try.
Thompstone then took the opportunity to haunt Harlequins, who released him last season, by stepping off the right wing to beat two defenders and draw the scores level at 17-17.
London Irish had their tails up and winger Bailey raced over for his first try since signing from Gloucester last month. Facing another Exiles fightback, Harlequins sent on the big guns in the form of England scum-half Danny Care and fly-half Chris Malone. But Quins then suffered another set-back when replacement hooker Ignacio Elosu was sin-binned after the touch judge spotted his boot had connected with Thorpe's head at a ruck.
Quins came close after a midfield break from Care but Quins could not engineer a comeback and Hewat's interception try sealed the bonus point and rounded off another Exiles fightback.
Harlequins (12) 17. Tries: Robson, Amesbury, Mcmillan. Cons: Jewell.
London Irish (5) 32. Tries: Thorpe, Hewat 2, Thompstone, Bailey. Cons: Hewat, Hickey. Pens: Geraghty.
London Irish: Peter Hewat; James Bailey; Dominic Shabbo; Charlie Gower; Adam Thompstone; Shane Geraghty; Tom Parker; Clarke Dermody (c); James Buckland, Faan Rautenbach; Gary Johnson; James Hudson; Declan Danaher; Steffon Armitage; Jonathon Fisher
Replacements: Dan Murphy; David Paice; Bob Casey; Richard Thorpe; Tom Homer; Alfredo Lalanne; Eoghan Hickey
Harlequins: Aston Croall, Chris Brooker, Mark Lambert, James Percival, George Robson, Phil Davies, Neil McMillan, Tom Guest, Gareth Williams, Waisea Luveniyali, Charlie Amesbury, Epi Taione, Tosh Masson, Seb Stegmann, Tom Williams
Replacements: Ignacio Elosu, Alex Rogers, Jim Evans, Chris York, Danny Care, De Wet Barry, Seb Jewell