HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL.. WELL JUST
By Katie Daunt
London Irish Wild Geese 38
THERE is light at the end of the relegation tunnel yet after this thrilling and topsy-turvy clash in deepest Surrey.
Wild Geese got off to a flyer with their No. 12 scoring within three minutes of the start.
The conversion was missed and their lead was soon extended to 12-0.
Raiders had applied pressure to the home side’s try line, but it was to no avail and poor ball retention allowed the Wild Geese to run the ball from their own 22 to eventually score under the posts.
Raiders had already demonstrated that their forwards were by far the stronger of the two teams and the visitors started to take control on the park, if not the scoreboard.
Douglas Horrocks' opening try started the ball rolling for the Raiders and it was converted by Owen Thomas.
Straight from the kick off the visiting backs combined well to send Brad Webb over for a try which was also converted and Raiders were ahead by two.
Another Raiders score soon followed from a catch and drive move.
George Shannon came up from the pack to score and although the conversion was missed Raiders led 19-12.
So dominant was the Raiders pack that they were awarded a penalty try after an infringement on Tom Ceillam as he was held up over the line.
A bonus point had been secured and at 26-12 to the good, all looked good for an away win.
But then, as they tend to, Raiders switched off and in trying to run the ball out of their own 22 Wild Geese capitalised from a penalty and scored a converted try to make it 19-26.
Straight from the resulting kick off the home side stretched the Raiders backs with another try that took the gap down to two.
And it got worse before it got better for Jordan Reynolds' men.
Again from the kick off the Raiders failed to cope with the Wild Geese backs who ran back at them to score again and lead 31-26 at the break.
With coach Reynolds asking his team to tighten up in defence in his usual manner, Raiders duly started the second half with a better mindset.
A catch and drive soon followed with Layton Batiste adding to his season’s impressive haul of tries and Thomas slotting the conversion for a 33-31 lead.
But, frustratingly, at this point Raiders again failed to heed their coaches demand for better defence and Wild Geese ran in another easy try through their wing which was converted for a 38-33 lead with half an hour remaining.
Enter Malcolm Barnes.
The old Kiwi maestro had supposed to have retired, but he entered the fray and steadied the ship.
Raiders regained control and soon enough Ceillam scored and it was converted by Thomas to regain the lead at 38-40.
Injuries to the Wild Geese props meant the game was forced to uncontested scrums and Wild Geese had to drop to 14 men. An early tackle without the ball on Sam Steventon, later meant Wild Geese were reduced further to just 13 men and were even more vulnerable.
And so it turned out.
Tom Teasdale, now at centre, picked a superb line through the Wild Geese defence to finish off his man of the match performance to decide the game with a converted try.
The head coach later enthused about Teasdale’s progress.
‘With Tom it is a debate now as to which is his best position.
But it was his best game for us yet by far, especially when we moved him into the midfield.
‘It is great to see youngsters like him and Matt Creber come through.’
Raiders were again thankful to their scrum.
‘We hammered them up front both at scrum time and with the catch and drive we had them all over the park which was great to see.
‘We were very fearful of their scrum beforehand, but we played really well there.’
The coach was also pleased to see Brad Webb get his try and also the commitment of Vikings Matt Lomas and Cam Le Prevost, who helped out the team at the moment of need.
‘We didn’t start well and then played really well before a 10 minutes spell when we threw it all away again.
‘The second half saw us regain control. Our attack was excellent and it was fantastic to see.
‘At half time we discussed the lack of commitment to making tackles. We had to fix that part of the game and when we did we played much better.’
Steventon, Ceillam, L. Batiste, Hillier (c), Merrien, Shannon, Rice, Horrocks; Teasdale, Thomas, Webb, Lomas, Morisio, Le Prevost, Aremu.
Replacements: Creber, Anderson, J. Smith, Barnes.