Tigers backed up their mid-week victory against the Maori with a more subdued victory against London Irish. The final score of 22-15 was a fair reflection of a game that Tigers dominated but couldn’t kill off. Tigers try was scored by Rob Andrew, certainly the first time that name has been cheered at Welford Road! George Ford added 17 points from the boot to complete the Tigers scoring.
London Irish actually began the game the brighter of the two sides and raced into an 8-0 lead courtesy of an Ian Humphreys penalty and an Anthony Watson try. Watson, a mere slip of a lad at 18, was on hand to score after Topsy Ojo recovered Andy Forsyth’s fumble and marched through Matt Tait’s turnstile tackle. Ford made the final tackle but the young Watson had followed play well to receive the try scoring off load.
Though that was very much against the run of play as Tigers forwards, led by the impressive Ed Slater, dominated the possession and the territory. On his first start of season Brett Deacon captained the side just 5 days after brother Louis had the honour against the Maori. I don’t know whether two brothers captaining the side within a week is a record or not but it is a very special memory for their family either way.
Tigers finally got the chance to get some reward for their efforts as a high tackle on Matt Tait was spotted, though no card given. Next was classic Welford Road. George Ford still only a 19 year old, though mature beyond his years, shanks his kick quite badly. It’s nearer the corner flag than the posts. The groans erupt from all sides. They’re louder than some of the cheers. Goode got it, Flood gets it and so does Ford. No mercy. It’s how we like it.
It doesn’t matter too much in the long run as Tigers finally got back on track with Rob Andrew’s first try for the club. A Matt Smith chargedown gave the Exiles a lineout roughly 10 meters out. Scott Lawson missed his target and Ed Slater swept up the loose ball like a basset hound. Michael Noone continued the charge before slipping the ball to that man Andrew who buried over at the base of the posts.
3 minutes later and Tigers took the lead. Brett Deacon was clearly held down at the lineout and the referee eventually agreed after taking the advice of his touch judge. Discussions with Declan Danaher, Matt Garvey and George Skivington ensued as the referee warned everyone, after all one of them did it, but again produced no card. Ford’s radar was more accurate this time as he made light of his earlier miss.
A deliberate knock on by Shane Geraghty garnered a yellow card for the Coventry native and a scrum penalty as Irish failed to deal with the Balmain train bookend a ten minute period which saw Tigers pull away to 19-8.
Then perhaps the game’s most memorable moment. Certainly it’s most controversial. It is the 64th minute and Darren Allison is snipping round the fringes of a ruck on the ten meter line when Boris “the finger” Stankovich lines him up and smashes him. Unfortunately Allison had moments earlier slipped on the dewy grass so “the finger” had smashed his head in, rather than his shoulder. It was unlucky and mistimed. Certainly a penalty but a yellow card would have been harsh. Welsh referee Ian Davies thought otherwise and produced the red card. The crowd was in shock. I sometimes wonder whether the RFU organise the LV Cup solely so that we appreciate that even the poor English refs are someway better than their Welsh equivalents.
The man advantage, or perhaps 2 man advantage being uncharitable to the referee, made the final quarter of an hour closer and more of a contest. Irish sensibly stretched the play after some early carries tied in the defence tight and Tom Homer squeezed over in the corner to make the score 19-15 after Ian Humphreys touchline conversion.
But Tigers weren’t going to let the game slip away like last year’s Premiership encounter and tightened up their play to see out the victory. A series of forwards thrusts eventually drew the penalty from Mr. Davies whistle, though there could have been half a dozen earlier. Ford made no mistake and the score finished at 22-15. A nothing match that due to the Accountant’s structure of this tournament put London Irish top of their group and left Tigers bottom of theirs.