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Paddy Lennon reports from Madejski Stadium, Reading
London Irish returned to winning ways at Madejski Stadium this afternoon but made very hard work of it in admittedly difficult conditions. Heavy rain before and during the match made conditions underfoot treacherous and ball handling a lottery.
While the home side dominated the balance of play, the Narbonne team always looked dangerous on the counter-attack. In addition, the visitors harried and hassled and upset the rhythm of the home side who never came to terms with the referee’s highly individual interpretation of what was going on around him.
Justin Bishop scored Irish’s only try, finishing off a well-worked move off the back of a scrum in the 38th minute. Mark Mapletoft, who struggled through out the game with an injury picked up in the pre-match warm up, missed the conversion, however, he was successful with five penalty kicks out of seven, a fine achievement in the conditions.
Narbonne’s points came from a try by left wing, Julian Candleon and a conversion and two penalties by Cedric Rosalen.
Speaking after the game London Irish head coach, Gary Gold’s said he was “very frustrated. We struggled to get the ball through phases. Narbonne were virtually camped offside, one has to ask just how much rugby were we allowed to play?” He added, “We have made life very difficult for ourselves next week in France.”
Scorers: London Irish: Try: Bishop (38min). Penalty goals: Mapletoft 5 (30, 41, 66, 82, 87). Narbonne: Try: Candelon (14). Conversion: Rosalen. Penalty goals: Rosalen 2 (7, 41).
Scoring sequence (London Irish first): 0-3, 0-10, 3-10, 8-10 (half-time) 11-10, 11-13, 14-13, 17-13, 20-13.
London Irish: M Horak, P Sackey (rep: K Barrett, 71), G Appleford, R Hoadley (sin-bin 57-67)(rep: N Greenstock, 67), J Bishop, M Mapletoft, D Edwards, N Hatley, N Drotske (rep: A Flavin, 82), D Wheatley, R Strudwick (Captain), B Casey, P Gustard (rep: K Roche, 82), M Haslett (rep: D Danaher, 57), P Murphy.
Narbonne: N Nadau, F Lartigue, D Douy, P-M Garcia (rep: L Fereres, 57), D Douy, J Candelon, C Rosalen, M Siro, S Petit (rep: L Martine, 40), B Miguel (rep: F Rofes, 35)(rep: J Garcia, 82), M Scelzo (rep: L Martinez, 87), M Blair (rep: G Delaney, 61), P Short (rep: D Richmond, 54-64), D Hunter, G Belzons (Captain), L Martinez (rep: L Baluc-Rittener, 51).
Referee: S Mancini (Italy)