London Irish 33 Saracens 16By Alan Manicom
September 05, 2010
Topsy Ojo crowned a superb second-half performance by London Irish when he grabbed a last-gasp bonus-point fourth try in their Aviva Premiership opener at Twickenham.
It was the third try in as many games for the speedy winger, who also crossed the line in pre-season friendlies against Newport/Gwent Dragons and Edinburgh.
Ojo had earned a penalty try minutes earlier when he was deliberately barged by Saracens' Kevin Barrett while attempting to gather the ball and score.
Full-back Delon Armitage and left wing Sailosi Tagicakibau, who was up against younger brother Michael, scored Irish's other tries, while the impressive Ryan Lamb kicked 13 points.
Exiles began the brighter, pinning Saracens back into their own 22, and Clarke Dermody, starting his first season as London Irish captain, was held up a foot short.
But after seven minutes of concerted pressure, Irish allowed Sarries to get out of their own half by losing a scrum close to the line.
Delon Armitage did his best to get his side on the front foot again with a clever break but his pass was dropped by George Stowers.
After yet more Irish pressure, Lamb finally accepted an opportunity to go for the posts when Saracens were penalised at a scrum, but his kick from 49 metres was scuffed horribly.
Irish's new inside centre Dan Bowden showed some useful sidesteps in midfield, but Saracens began to get back in the game midway through the half.
It needed a great tackle by Irish's Paul Hodgson to stop Brad Barritt from bursting over the line, then Topsy Ojo was called upon to prevent Noah Cato from finding a way through.
Irish, though, conceded the initiative 22 minutes into the match when Delon Armitage was sinbinned for a late and high tackle on Cato.
Not long afterwards Saracens opened the scoring with a try in the corner by their captain Ernst Joubert after the impressive off-loading skills of hooker Schalk Brits and full-back Chris Wyles.
Alex Goode, though, missed his conversion and 14-man Exiles reduced the deficit to 5-3 when Lamb punished Jacques Burger for holding onto the ball.
Saracens enjoyed their biggest lead of the day six minutes from the break as Brits held off Delon Armitage to touch down. But Goode again failed to improve on the try.
And Lamb's second successful penalty ensured London Irish went in only 10-6 adrift at half-time.
Exiles came out in determined mood and when Goode was sinbinned for being offside as he patted back a Paul Hodgson pass, Lamb cut Saracens' lead to just a point with his third successful penalty.
After going through the phases patiently, Irish went ahead for the first time, Delon Armitage going over in the corner thanks to fine work and a perfectly timed pass from his younger brother Steffon.
Although Lamb was unable to add the extras, he provided a perfectly judged cross-kick soon afterwards from which Sailosi Tagicakibau caught the ball and strode over.
And Lamb was even able to slot home the touchline conversion to make it 21-10.
Despite seeing Saracens replacement Derick Hougard send over a successful penalty, Irish looked to be in control with Lamb kicking and passing superbly out of hand.
Lamb was then called upon to show even more versatility by taking over at scrum-half after Hodgson had been sinbinned for a deliberate knock-on when Sarries had cut through the middle and looked likely to score.
Hougard set the nerves jangling for 14-man Irish by trimming the scoreline to 21-16 with the resultant penalty.
Again Lamb was in the thick of it, chasing back to stop Sarries replacement Kameli Ratuvou from scoring from his own chip through.
Saracens sensed a way back into the match and went through the phases, but failed to make the yards as Irish defended tigerishly.
Exiles' stoicism was rewarded with seven minutes remaining when Ojo spotted an opportunity to kick the ball clear on the halfway line.
He was firstly pulled back by Barrett and then pushed by the same player as he went to touch down by the posts.
Referee Andrew Small awarded the penalty try after consulting with the video official and Barrett became the fourth player to be given a yellow card.
Lamb had the simple task of converting to make it 28-16.
Moments later another of his trademark long passes out wide bounced in front of Decland Danaher and Ojo, who gratefully accepted the chance to collect and go over for a simple try.
London Irish: Delon Armitage, Topsy Ojo, Elvis Seveali'i, Daniel Bowden, Sailosi Tagicakibau, Ryan Lamb, Paul Hodgson, Clarke Dermody (c), David Paice, Faan Rautenbach, Kieran Roche, Bob Casey, Declan Danaher, Stefon Armitage, George Stowers.
Replacements: James Buckland, Max Lahiff, Alex Corbisiero, Nick Kennedy, Matt Garvey, Seilala Mapusua, Jonathan Joseph, Chris Malone.
Saracens: Chris Wyles, Noah Cate, Adam Powell, Brad Barritt, Michael Tagicakibau, Alex Goode, Richard Wigglesworth, Rhys Gill, Schalk Brits, Carlos Nieto, Hugh Vyvyan, Mouritz Botha, Kelly Brown, Jaccques Burger, Ernst Joubert (c).
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Deon Carstens, Petrus Du Plessis, George Kruis, Justin Melck, Kevin Barrett, Derick Hougaard, Kameli Ratuvou.