Adam Thompstone claimed a second-half hat trick as London Irish ruthlessly swept aside Leeds Carnegie 56-7 to send out another emphatic reminder of their Guinness Premiership title credentials.
The Exiles were beaten by Leicester in last season’s Guinness Premiership final but hopes are high at the Madejski Stadium that Toby Booth’s men can go one better this time around. They certainly had far too much quality for Leeds, and after a penalty try and a Chris Hala’ufia touch down in the first half, they cut loose after the restart by running in five second-half tries.
Hala’ufia completed his brace and Thompstone seized centre stage with his treble before Sailosi Tagicakibau added a late seventh to brutally illustrate the gulf between the sides and give Irish a second successive bonus-point victory.
Leeds lacked nothing in spirit but an outstanding first-half try from highly-rated flanker Kearnan Myall was ultimately little consolation for the Yorkshiremen, who have been tipped for relegation since the start of the season. Irish’s ambition lies at the opposite end of the table and they exuded the air and confidence of a side who romped to a 40-10 victory over Gloucester last weekend.
That win was soured when England full-back Delon Armitage sustained a dislocated shoulder which looks likely to rule him out of England’s autumn Test series. Yet Armitage was soon nodding in approval from Headingley’s main stand as his team-mates stamped their class on proceedings.
After the impressive Ryan Lamb missed a penalty inside the second minute, Irish engineered a fine flowing move which threatened to cut Leeds apart. Nick Kennedy embarked on a storming run down the left channel and showed intelligence to find Elvis Seveali’i. Only a desperate last-ditch tackle by Leeds full-back Jon Goodridge prevented a certain score.
Subsequent Irish pressure led to them being awarded a penalty try converted by Lamb, who added three penalties in quick succession to put his side 16-0 ahead midway through the first half. Leeds had showed little as an attacking force until Myall intercepted an errant Irish pass from just inside his own half and raced under the posts for a try which Ceiron Thomas converted.
That lifted spirits among the home crowd but seven minutes later the Exiles reasserted their control on the match as Hala’ufia crossed in the right corner and Lamb added the extras.
Controversy reigned on the stroke of half-time when Kennedy shoved Leeds scrum-half Andy Gomarsall to the ground after connecting with his throat. Kennedy was sin-binned for his indiscretion and Leeds could not make their numerical advantage pay as Thomas missed a penalty.
Irish, still minus Kennedy, conjured a brilliant breakaway score seven minutes after the restart when Seveali’i broke the Leeds line and ushered the supporting Thompstone under the posts. Four minutes later, the Exiles touched down again when Hala’ufia burrowed his way over in the right corner to secure a bonus point. Shortly before the hour mark, Thompstone collected possession in the loose and Irish were well out of sight.
Hala’ufia was sinbinned for a dangerous tackle but Thompstone’s eye for a try was evident again in the 72nd minute when he finished off a fine break from replacement Peter Richards to complete his hat trick. Tagicakibau took a pass from Lamb to go over in the dying embers and Lamb landed his sixth conversion to seal an outstanding Irish victory.