London Irish 27-14 Saracens
Exiles rally to beat Sarries
November 23, 2008
London Irish's Chris Hala'Ufia is tackled by Saracens' Tom Ryder during the clash at the Madejski Stadium
© Getty Images
London Irish climbed to second place in the Premiership with a 27-14 victory over Saracens in their clash at the Madejski Stadium.
Eighteen-year-old winger Tom Homer marked his Premiership debut with two tries for London Irish who moved up to second place in the table with victory over Saracens in their London derby clash. Homer, capped at Under-18 level by England, struck in the first half, with flanker Richard Thorpe popping up up on the right wing to grab the second half try which ensured victory.
The young winger struck again in the final minute, diving over in the corner after Australian fullback Peter Hewat, who kicked four penalties for the Exiles, split the visitors' defence. Saracens' try came from South African World Cup winner Wikus Van Heerden, making his first start for the club after arriving earlier this month.
The powerful 29-year-old flanker, who arrived at Sarries earlier this month, looked a more than useful addition to their back row. Sarries' usually reliable Glen Jackson, who kicked three penalties and was influential in open play, missed another two and a conversion attempt.
Hewat struck the first blow with a third minute penalty, cancelled out by Jackson two minutes later. Irish went ahead again in the eighth minute when veteran player-coach Mike Catt hoisted a high kick to the left wing for Homer, whose only two previous first team appearances had been as a replacement in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, to collect and cross in the corner.
Saracens, allowed to play the advantage after the Exiles strayed offside, squandered a great opportunity to equalise when Jackson threw the ball behind the two unmarked players outside him. He then compounded his error by missing the resulting far-from-difficult penalty.
Saracens made amends with their opening try in the 20th minute. Irish full-back Hewat was penalised for going high in the tackle, Saracens kicked for touch and, from the resulting line-out, their second drive saw Van Heerden force his way over.
Jackson put them 11-8 up with his second penalty in the 34th minute but then Irish were guilty of passing up scoring chances of their own. Thorpe, out on the right touchline, dropped Hewat's high pass with a run for the line beckoning and then Hewat fired a penalty wide from in front off the posts after the visitors had been ruled offside.
Hewat hit the target with a more difficult penalty nine minutes into the second half to level the scores before Irish moved into the lead with their second try. Catt, lock Kieran Roche and centre Elvis Seveali'i were all involved in the build-up which created an overlap on the right for winger Topsy Ojo to send Thorpe over in the corner.
Saracens responded with Jackson's third penalty in the 55th minute but, two minutes later, he missed another which would have put them ahead. The visitors staged a late push for victory, with teenage winger Noah Cato almost escaping Irish clutches, but the pressure was relieved when Cato's next burst ended with his side being penalised for crossing.
Irish finished the stronger, forcing two more late penalties which Hewat landed before laying on Homer's second touchdown as the late scoring burst denied Saracens the consolation of a losing bonus point.
London Irish: Hewat, Ojo, Seveali'i, Geraghty, Homer, Catt, Hodgson, Dermody, Paice, Rautenbach, Kennedy, Roche, Thorpe, S. Armitage, Hala'ufia.
Replacements: Gower for Catt (56), Corbisiero for Dermody (56), Casey for Roche (56), Danaher for Thorpe (56). Not Used: D. Murphy, Buckland, Lalanne.
Sin Bin: Hala'ufia (68).
Saracens: Goode, Penney, Powell, A. Farrell, Cato, Jackson, de Kock, Lloyd, Cairns, Visagie, Ryder, Vyvyan, Skirving, van Heerden, Owen.
Not Used: Kyriacou, Mercey, Chesney, Saull, Wilson, Barritt, Sorrell.
Sin Bin: Owen (76).
Referee: Tim Wigglesworth (RFU).