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Irish keep clean slate against Newcastle at Madjeski

23 Sep 2007
Irish keep clean slate against Newcastle at Madjeski

Shane Geraghty returned from the hamstring injury which wrecked his hopes of going to the World Cup with England to inspire London Irish to victory.

The talented 21-year-old fly-half provided the spark Irish lacked in last weekend’s opening-day defeat by Harlequins, as they dominated a poor Newcastle side.

His beautifully-executed side-step split the visiting defence open to produce the opening try in the 18th minute.

Even though centre Jeremy Staunton was stopped short when he tried to go it alone, despite having winger Tomas De Vedia outside him, the Irish pack propelled prop Faan Rautenbach over for the opening try.

Scrum-half Paul Hodgson scored an opportunist second in the 32nd minute, taking the ball from the base of the scrum and kicking over the head of his opposite number, James Grindal, before diving on the bouncing ball.

With Staunton landing only two penalties from five first-half kicking attempts, Irish were restricted to a 16-0 half-time lead.

But it was enough to ensure they took no chances with Geraghty, whose lively performance ended when he was withdrawn in the 44th minute as part of director of rugby Brian Smith’s plan to carefully manage the youngster’s return from the injury he suffered at an England pre-World Cup training camp.

Newcastle, with a back division badly missing Jonny Wilkinson, Jamie Noon, Mathew Tait and Toby Flood through England World Cup calls, struggled to mount a worthwhile attack for much of the match.

When they did have the chance of an opening, they invariably wasted it with poor handling.

The Newcastle pack came off decidedly second-best against the Irish forwards, well marshalled by Bob Casey, making his first appearance since being appointed club captain, after missing the opening GUINNESS PREMIERSHIP game.

Newcastle threatened briefly at the end of the first half. Spurning the chance of an easy penalty kick, fly-half Steve Jones failed to get the ball anywhere near the corner with his touch kick, and they then lost the resulting line-out.

Their next attack petered out when prop Joe McDonnell became involved in the three-quarter move and spilled the ball.

The Falcons’ problems increased when centre Tom Dillon was despatched to the sin-bin for 10 minutes for killing the ball in a ruck.

Staunton kicked the resulting penalty, but Irish failed to take any further advantage of their temporary numerical superiority, before Dillon returned.

In a match marred by sloppy handling and too many infringements, Irish should have had more to show for their territorial advantage.

But, whenever they threatened to add to their score, their ball skills were almost as bad as those of Newcastle.

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