Match Reaction: London Irish 33 Sale Sharks 33
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith claims their start against Sale Sharks warranted more than just a two-point return in a thrilling Aviva Premiership clash that ended in a 33-33 draw.
The Exiles were 14-3 ahead after just ten minutes after Guy Armitage and Halani Aulika had crossed the whitewash.
But in an end-to-end encounter, they found themselves 30-20 behind just minutes after half-time as Henry Thomas, Mark Cueto, Kearnan Myall and James Gaskell all touched down for the Sharks.
Nick Macleod’s penalty for the visitors eventually denied Irish victory, a result which moves them 12 points clear of bottom side London Welsh, but Smith was left wondering what might have been.
“If you’d have just seen the first 20 minutes of the game you would say that was two or three points lost,” he said.
“But the up side was, after we got ourselves in trouble just before half-time then just after half-time and Sale pinched the lead, we got back and got our noses in front.
“It’s very difficult but drawing your game is not great, you’d rather try and get an outcome but it is what it is and we’ll roll our sleeves up and move on.
“For the neutral it was probably a good game, but from the defensive side of things, compared to how we defended last week, we were a shambles and it is very disappointing.
“We have got 20 or 25 guys in our squad who we have to roll out every week and we’ve had a lot of guys injured, and you probably saw we had one or two key players who weren’t at the races.”
Sharks meanwhile secured two bonus points as well as a share of the spoils that moves them eight points above Welsh and for director of rugby Steve Diamond such a result was crucial.
“The decision was right to give the penalty I feel, and we had to go for the three points because every point is vital,” he said.
“Both sides showed how much it would mean to remain in the Aviva Premiership. We knew London Irish were going to run everything and in the first ten or 15 minutes of the game our defence didn’t hold up.
“One-on-one tackles were poor and they went into an early lead, but we managed to get some composure back and get back into the game which was good for us.
“I was relieved at half-time, but I thought the first ten or 15 minutes of the second half we were the better side and we could have taken it away.
“The referee had a good game, and it was a really close game, the last 20 minutes were always going to be won by three or four points or drawn, and we managed to get it.”
London Irish: Homer; Yarhe, Armitage, Geraghty (Ojo, 73), Tagicakibau (Joseph, 63); Humphreys, Phibbs (Allinson, 8); Lahiff (Yanuyanutawa, 76), Paice (Lawson, 73), Aulika (Halavatau, 41), Skivington, Evans, Garvey (Sinclair, 73), Treviranus, Hala'ufia (Fisher, 41).
Sale Sharks: Shepherd; Amesbury, Leota, Tuitupou (Brady, 59), Cueto; Macleod, Peel, Dickinson (Harrison, 53), Jones (Taylor, 53), Thomas (Buckley, 65), Myall, Ostrikov, Braid (Vernon, 53), Seymour, Gaskell
Not used: Holmes, Powell, Fowles, Cipriani
Tries: Armitage, Lahiff, Aulika
Conversions: Homer 3
Penalties: Homer 4
Tries: Cueto, Thomas, Myall, Gaskell
Conversions: Macleod 2
Penalties: Macleod 3
Referee: Greg Garner