February 5, 2017
Nottingham Rugby suffered a heavy away defeat, as they succumbed to unbeaten league leaders London Irish at the Madejski Stadium, on Sunday afternoon.
Two second half tries from Murray McConnell and Darryl Veenendaal were all Nottingham could muster, as they were outmuscled by a dominant Exiles side.
Head coach Ian Costello made just three changes to his starting XV, all in the pack, from the side that narrowly lost at home to Jersey Reds the previous weekend. Hooker Jimmy Stevens was chosen to start against his former club, ahead of TJ Harris, who featured on the replacements bench.
Rob Langley was promoted from the bench to start in the back row, whilst flanker Jordan Coghlan made a return to take the place of the side-lined captain Matt Everard, with Ben Morris moving from the back to the second row and taking over the captain’s role.
Following two separate injury setbacks during the season, Tim Cardall looked set to make his Championship debut, after being included amongst the replacements, alongside fly half Gearoid Lyons, who continued his recent comeback, following four months on the sidelines.
Despite Nottingham’s best efforts, any hopes of a shock result against the Championship high-flyers were extinguished in the opening 40 minutes.
An early James Marshall penalty set the home side on their way in the fifth minute, before nine minutes later, winger Aseli Tikoriotuma found himself on the end of a pinpoint kick, which caught out the Nottingham defence, with the Fijian crossing the whitewash to make it 8-0.
Harry Elrington was then quick off the mark to make it 13-0 in the 18th minute, when from a 5 metre line-out, the power of the Exiles’ rolling maul was too much for the Green and Whites pack, as the prop forced his way over the try line.
Two almost identical home tries, on 30 and 35 minutes, then followed, again both stemming from 5 metre line-outs, as Ben Franks hit first again, after a flowing series of phases saw the All Black charge over in the centre. Scrum half Scott Steele then followed Franks’ lead in similar fashion shortly after, with Marshall converting both kicks to make the score 27-0.
A brief spell of pressure in the dying minutes of half, gave Nottingham some hope of a way back into the game, but they just fell just short of the try line, with Irish winning a penalty at a crucial moment, ending what was a pretty miserable first period for the Green and Whites, not helped with the loss of Stevens, Toby Freeman and James Stephenson, who were all forced to leave the field with injuries.
To say that Nottingham had a mountain to climb in the second half would be something of an understatement, but to their credit, Costello’s troops fought on and found their first try of the day just four minutes after the restart, after some excellent interchange play between Oli Evans and Murray McConnell, left McConnell free to finish the move in-between the posts.
Rayner converted to make it 27-7, but any hopes of a potential Nottingham comeback were short lived, as just three minutes later, Johnny Williams bagged the Exiles’ fifth try of the match, with Marshall converting, to restore the home side’s commanding lead.
Try number six for Irish arrived on 55 minutes, as another 5 metre line-out and a formidable pack proved too much for the Green and Whites. Marshall’s conversion then stretched the home lead to 41-7.
A yellow card for Kieran Davies signalled more woe for Nottingham, as Irish capitalised instantly with a converted try from Ofisa Treviranus. However, Costello’s side then did well to negate the home side’s relentless waves of attack for the next five minutes, before replacement Dave Porecki grabbed another converted score for the Exiles in the 70th minute.
Another yellow card, this time for Ben Morris, set up a torrid final few minutes of the game for the Green and Whites, as Topsy Ojo crossed over with three minutes left, for the host’s ninth and final try of the match.
Darryl Veenendaal then had the last say in the match, finding a gap in the Irish defence, for a consolation try to take Nottingham into double figures, with Lyons’ conversion signalling the end of a game to forget for the Green and Whites.
Costello’s side now have a weekend off before normal service resumes, with a big local derby clash against Doncaster Knights at The Bay, on Friday 17th February (7:45pm kick-off). Advance, discounted tickets are available to purchase via www.nottinghamrugbydirect.co.uk.
Match images courtesy of London Irish.