Mo Fa'asavalu is tackled by Ofisa Treviranus at the Madejski Stadium
5 October 2013, 04:48 pm ::
By Charlie Talbot-Smith
London Irish 18 Harlequins 13
Blair Cowan and Alex Lewington both went over in the space of three second-half minutes as London Irish held off Harlequins to claim a deserved win in the Aviva Premiership.
The Exiles had lost their last five clashes against Quins and few would have predicted a win at the Madejski Stadium after the hosts shipped 33 points before half-time against Bath Rugby last time out.
But after a tight first-half that saw Nick Evans and Shane Geraghty trade two penalties each for a 6-6 scoreline the game caught fire after the break.
And around the hour mark both Cowan and Lewington went over for tries to open up a 12-point lead.
Danny Care got one try back for the visitors but it was not enough as the Exiles held firm for their second win of the new season.
Kieran Low went off injured early on for Irish but it was they that had the first chance to open the scoring and Geraghty took full advantage, slotting over a sixth-minute penalty after Quins scrum-half Karl Dickson was pinged at the breakdown.
The Exiles were making much the brighter start as their defence, which conceded five tries in the first half at the Rec last weekend, was aggressive from the off and prevented Quins from getting their off-loading game into stride.
In the tenth minute Evans had the chance to level the scores but pulled a long-range penalty effort across the posts.
But the Kiwi fly-half made no mistake at the second time of asking and the scores were level after the first 20 minutes.
The two backlines had not yet got going but England rising star Marland Yarde fired a warning shot with one of his first touches when he danced away from Ugo Monye down the left wing but the move broke down after Leo Halavatau knocked on.
Quins' chances of getting going were then handed another blow when Tom Casson limped off meaning Ben Botica came on at inside centre.
And on the half-hour mark Geraghty put the hosts back in front with another long-range penalty that shaved the upright on its way through.
That kick seemed to fire up the visitors however and Quins came within a whisker of the first try when Evans just overegged his crossfield kick with winger Sam Smith away and clear down the right.
But they did not have to wait long to level the scores, Evans bisecting the posts from close range with a penalty to make it 6-6.
But when the half-time whistle blew it was certainly Irish in the ascendancy, a period of sustained pressure almost yielding a score before the 40 minutes were up.
The opening ten minutes of the second half were frantic but lacking in quality from both sides and it was Evans who wasted the first chance, pushing a penalty wide on 49 minutes.
Care was then introduced for Dickson to try and spark up the visiting backline at scrum-half.
But having gained an England international Quins then lost one as skipper Chris Robshaw was removed, nursing an apparent shoulder problem, and Luke Wallace came on.
The next penalty that came Quins' way was then passed on to Botica but like his fellow Kiwi Evans, the left-footer could not pierce the uprights and the scores stayed level.
And just when it looked like Quins were starting to turn the screw it was Irish who notched the first try of the game, the impressive Cowan barging over from close range.
When Geraghty added the conversion the hosts were eyeing up a real shock result, 13-6 ahead with less than 20 minutes to go.
And it only got better for the Exiles as Topsy Ojo's initial break and cross-field kick released Lewington and the winger sped clear for his first try for the club, Irish's second in the space of three minutes.
Geraghty could not add the conversion this time but at 18-6 and barely a quarter of an hour to go Quins' chances of a comeback appeared remote.
But Care sparked the revival, bursting clear down the short-side to canter under the posts and Evans' conversion made it 18-13 with ten minutes to go.
But try as they might in the closing stages Quins could not get through and Brian Smith's side held on for what could prove a pivotal win in their season.