Pearson and Arundell lead London Irish rally to snatch record draw with WaspsThe race for the remaining Champions Cup place is far from over after a remarkable comeback from London Irish saw them snatch the highest scoring draw in Premiership history from a contest they had all but lost. Twenty minutes into the second half, when Jimmy Gopperth converted Wasps’ fifth try, the Exiles were staring at a 39-14 deficit.
Irish remain in eighth with Wasps one place and one point behind with a game in hand but must finish the campaign away to Leicester. First, some hard questions need to be asked inside that Wasps camp. “That feels like a big loss, ” said Wasps’ head coach, Lee Blackett. “I am trying to hide my frustration. The reality of it is, for 65 to 70 minutes, I thought we were very good. ” They opened the scoring after 13 minutes. With Irish giving away a breakdown penalty, Wasps set a maul that found momentum with a second shove. Gabriel Oghre emerged from the morass with the five points.
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Irish responded when Tom Pearson managed what few of his teammates had done until then by offloading in the tackle. The ball shifted right where Benhard Janse van Rensburg found space before floating it on for Kyle Rowe to finish. Irish were ahead soon after. The scrum-half Nick Phipps, from the base of a scrum inside his own half, shaped to go right but went left. Paddy Jackson then chipped a perfect kick behind Francois Hougaard who could only watch the onrushing Ollie Hassell-Collins collect a kind bounce.
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But the home team rallied for a record fifth draw of the season, scoring three tries and snatching a stoppage time penalty try in the final 13 minutes. “We have one thing you can’t coach, ” said Irish’s director of rugby, Declan Kidney. “That comes from the players. They fight to the finish and it is a great thing to be able to fall back on. “A draw is a strange result but with five minutes to go you would have bitten fellas’ hands off to take it. ” This hardly serves either team.
A strong maul from a lineout in the corner moved infield before losing momentum under the posts. Robson kept his cool and played a cute pop off his shoulder for Charlie Atkinson. The result seemed assured six minutes after the restart when Hougaard completed a simple move that might have been defended by mannequins. Credit will go to the All Black Malakai Fekitoa for straightening and shifting it wide at pace but London Irish apparently had given up the fight with eyes on their Challenge Cup tie away to Toulon next week. This was reflected in both the substitutions made by Kidney – Phipps, Agustín Creevy and Albert Tuisue were all pulled on 50 minutes – as well as the visceral drop in energy.
The young Englishman drew in the final tackler and provided a textbook assist for the supporting Tom Parton. Francois Hougaard scores a try during Wasps’ high-scoring draw. Photograph: Juan Gasparini/JMP/ShutterstockHougaard would have been stung by the lapse and the Springbok swiftly made amends. It was his mighty hit on Parton that turned possession. Minutes later another powerful Wasps scrum wheeled Irish’s pack inside their 22, widening the space on the blindside. Dan Robson fired a bullet pass to Hougaard, who scored unopposed. Wasps had the lead they deserved with Robson again offering the final pass.
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