A BLISTERING opening half hour helped London Irish celebrate their St Patrick’s Party with a 17th consecutive Greene King IPA Championship win, overcoming Cornish Pirates 39-10 to ensure they will end the season top of the table, writes Richard Ashton.
Exiles ran in six tries in their lethal opening salvo, although the visitors battled gallantly and proved competitive for the remainder of the match.
In front of a league record crowd of 11,671, Irish took the lead early on when the club’s all-time top try scorer, Topsy Ojo, darted over from close range following a superb break by Alex Lewington and some fine handling along the line. James Marshall missed the conversion from the left-hand touchline, but Exiles had the dream start.
Things got even better for the hosts shortly after when Ojo burst down the left wing, and after the all went through the hands of man-of-the-match Blair Cowan, Marshall and Luke Narraway, captain David Paice cut a fine line to cross the whitewash.
Irish then turned on the style with a sensational four tries in just eight minutes early in the second quarter.
Firstly, a superb charge by Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi preceded Sebastian De Chaves crashing over under the posts, Marshall landing his first conversion of the afternoon.
The electric Lewington then showed his pace before finding full back Ben Ransom to go over for the bonus point try on the left, Marshall landing a tough kick to make it 24-0.
Lewington then scored the pick of the afternoon’s tries, collecting the ball 30 metres out before scorching away down the right for a memorable five-pointer.
Rampant Irish posted their sixth try in the opening half hour almost immediately as Ransom grabbed his second, showing his pace to break clear and go over.
A shell-shocked Pirates showed tremendous character to hit back with two tries of their own before the break, although the first was perhaps fortunate to have been awarded, Jake Parker picking up a ball which seemed to have been knocked forward before dotting down.
Pirates’ second was scored by Alex Dancer, the centre benefitting from the ball being spread down the line to cross on the left.
While the opening half was one of the best of the season, the second was far from it. Pirates dominated, but Exiles’ defence held firm before they sent their fans home happy with a second try for Ojo.
The Irish stalwart bagged his 80th for the club to reach 400 points as he rounded off a breakaway down the left-hand side.
London Irish travel to Jersey next Saturday (3pm).