BRILLIANT young wing Ben Loader put in a two-try, man-of-the-match performance to lead London Irish into the final of the RFU Championship Cup with a 22-8 home win against Yorkshire Carnegie this afternoon, writes Richard Ashton.

The former Leighton Park pupil claimed two brilliant scores to help his side past obdurate opposition, whose 72-5 defeat to Exiles in the league was a distant memory following an attritional battle at Madejski Stadium.

The home side missed an early opportunity to take the lead when fly-half Jacob Atkins missed a long-range penalty attempt in the fourth minute, but it did not take long for him to make amends in conjunction with fellow Academy star Loader.

Atkins hoisted a huge up-and-under in the seventh minute, with Loader leaping highest to claim the ball and sprint 35 metres to the line for the opening score. Atkins added a fabulous touchline conversion, and Declan Kidney’s side were 7-0 to the good.

Loader shortly afterwards claimed another superb high ball from a Scott Steele box kick before being bundled into touch, but the visitors cut the deficit following a controversial moment a quarter of the way into the game.

A kick into the Irish dead-ball area was fielded by full-back Greig Tonks, but the chase from Yorkshire resulted in the Scottish international spilling the ball and being subject to an HIA which he failed, the loose ball touched down by Myles Thoroughgood with the try being awarded to the consternation of the home faithful.

Tonks’ departure heralded the return to action of long-term injury victim Tommy Bell, who received a warm reception on his arrival, but it was the away side who moved in front shortly after when Jade Te Rure slotted a simple conversion from in front of the uprights.

Carnegie continued to have the better of play in the first half, but Exiles hit their opponents with a sucker-punch a minute before the break as Loader again showed his aerial prowess, taking a high ball and bursting through for his second try. While Atkins could not hit the target with the conversion, his side led 12-8 at the break.

Yorkshire came out firing at the start of the second half, but a magnificent defensive effort from the hosts proved pivotal to their eventual triumph.

Having repelled the visitors from their own try-line and forced Yorkshire towards the half-way line, a Carnegie kick ran dead before Irish won a penalty from the resulting scrum.

Bell kicked the ball to the corner, and as efficient as ever, the Exiles rolling maul ended with hooker Dave Porecki crashing over for his 14th try of an ever-increasingly productive campaign.

Another fine conversion from Atkins extended the advantage to 19-8 with 30 minutes remaining, with the following 20 minutes seeing both sides unable to create any clear-cut scoring opportunities.

Atkins had an opportunity to push his side nearer the winning line in the 72nd minute, only to hook his penalty attempt wide, but he made no mistake from in front of the posts shortly after to extend the gap to two converted scores.

Yorkshire continued to battle away, but they never looked likely to breach the Irish defence twice, and the home side held on for a comfortable win which sets up a final against their principle rivals for the Greene King IPA Championship title, Ealing TRailfinders, following their 58-26 demolition of Cornish Pirates.

London Irish: Tonks (Bell 22), Loader (Macken 76), Fowlie, Hepetema, McLean, Atkins, Steele (Brand 65), Reid, Porecki (Adams 75), Chawatama (Saulo 64), Maddison (c), De Chaves (Twomey 61), Northcote-Green, Gilsenan (Curtis-Harris 65) Treviranus.

Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder, Watkins, Niko, Lucock, Thoroughgood, Te Rure, Bruzulier, Thomas, Donnellan, Nixon, Romainee, Smith, Wilson, Mayhew (c), Temm.