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A stunning hat-trick of tries by flying winger Adam Thompstone confirmed his coming of age in a Guinness Premiership context. Chris Hala’Ufia capped another energetic performance with a brace of tries. Sailosi Tagicakibau scored the seventh in the final minute to take the score over the half-century mark.
Such was the superiority of the Exiles’ forwards that their opening score came from a penalty try in the sixth minute. Referee Debney had little option but to award the try after Bob Casey’s pack had forced their opponents into conceding three scrummage penalties in quick succession.
Ryan Lamb kicked the conversion and extended Irish’s lead with a penalty three minutes later. Two further penalties by the gifted fly half in the 16th and 21st minutes indicated the visitors’ superiority. Leeds’ limited attacking threat was capably snuffed out by a clinical London Irish defence.
Irish’s commitment to counter-attacking from deep led to the home team’s only score of the match. In the 26th minute a hesitant pass by Peter Hewat was intercepted by Kearnan Myall who raced over 45 metres to touch down under the posts. Ceiron Thomes kicked the conversion.
With Paul Hodgson orchestrating play, Irish responded by picking up the tempo of the match and it took only six minutes for the visitors to restore the margin of their lead. Leeds lost control of the ball at a breakdown in midfield. Hala’Ufia was quickest to react, the powerful number 8 picked up the ball and showed an athletic turn of speed that belied his size to race over 40 metres to score under the posts. Another mighty shove by the Exiles’ pack had the Leeds pack retreating five metres from their try line. Lamb added the extras to take the score to 7-23.
Irish had to cope with 14 men after Nick Kennedy was sin-binned for a harmless push on Andy Gomarsall; the much travelled scrum-hall deserved an acting award for his performance. Even with the handicap the Irish defence dealt capably with the home side’s limited threat and saw out the half with no further score.
While Leeds re-emerged for the opening exchanges of the second half with more enthusiasm, there was little attacking edge to their play. Their failure to test Irish will be a concern for the coaching staff going forward.
Irish went further ahead in the 47th minute when the energetic Elvis Seveali’i broke through midfield to send Thompstone on his way for his first try in the 47th minute. Minutes later the impressive Seilala Mapusua sliced through the Leeds midfield before passing to Thompsone who was unlucky to be tackled with the line beckoning.
Hala’Ufia’s second try came in the 50th minute when he touched down in the right corner off the back of another powerful shove in the scrum by the Exiles’ pack. Lamb missed with the touchline conversion attempt.
With a comfortable 28 point lead, Irish were able to make a series of replacements that added fresh impetus to their attack. Try number five followed in the 57th minute when Hodgson combined with Lamb off the back of a scrum. The fly half completely outwitted the Leeds defence with a beautifully timed inside pass that allowed Thompstone to slip by a despairing defence and touch down under the posts. The simple conversion brought Irish’s points tally to 42.
With just over 20 minutes remaining the only question was whether Irish would break the score a half-century at Headingley. To their credit Leeds kicked their penalties to touch as they tried to set-up scoring opportunities. However, their tactics lacked the guile required to crack a defence as well organised as that of the Exiles who lost Hala’Ufia to the sin-bin in the 67th minute for an alleged high tackle.
With replacements Andy Perry, Peter Richard and Alfredo Lalanne contributing in their respective positions, the visitors always threatened despite being one man down. Chris Malone also joined the fray in the 68th minute to make his debut for Irish.
An intercepted pass and line break by Richards set up try number six for Thompstone’s third try in the 72nd minute. Five minutes later another Richards break that featured top class offloads from him to Hewat and from the full back to Lalanne was unlucky to break down when the scrum half just couldn’t keep control of the ball.
There was consolation in the last minute when Sailosi Tagicakibau’s hard work over the match was rewarded with a characteristic run and touch down in the left corner. Lamb’s excellent touchline conversion made it six out of seven for the 23-year-old and brought the final score to 56-7.
Afterwards, Head Coach Toby Booth described his team’s efforts as “encouraging”, praising in particular “the great performance in the scrum. We were ruthless in the second half. There has been a mentality shift within this group, they want to kick on. We’re constantly improving and know that there are stiffer challenges to come.”
Scorers: Leeds Carnegie: Try: Myall (26); Conversion: Thomas. London Irish: Tries: Penalty Try (6), Hala’Ufia 2 (32, 50), Thompstone 3 (47, 57, 72), Tagicakibau (79); Conversions: Lamb 6. Penalty goals: Lamb 3 (9, 13, 21).
Scoring sequence (Leeds Carnegie first): 0-7, 0-10, 0-13, 0-16, 7-16, 7-23 (half-time) 7-30, 7-35, 7-42, 7-49, 7-56.
Leeds Carnegie: 15. J Goodridge, 14. R Welding (rep: L Blackett, 53), 13. L Burrell, 12. H Paul, 11. S Armstrong, 10. C Thomas, 9. A Gomarsall (rep: S Mathie, 61), 1. G Hardy, 2. V Ma’asi, 3. J Gomez, 4. E Lund, 5. J Pendlebury (captain), 6. K Myall (rep: D Paul, 64), 7. H Fourie (rep: C Clark, 62), 8. A To’oala (rep: P Nilsen, 67).
London Irish: 15. P Hewat, 14. A Thompstone, 13. E Seveali’i, 12. S Mapusua (rep: C Malone, 68), 11. S Tagicakibau, 10. R Lamb, 9. P Hodgson (rep: A Lalanne, 57), 1. D Murphy (rep: C Dermody, 64), 2. J Buckland (rep: D Paice, 55), 3. F Rautenbach (rep: P Ion, 48), 4. N Kennedy, 5. B Casey (captain)(rep: A Perry, 55), 6. D Danaher, 7. S Armitage (rep: G Stowers, 55), 8. C Hala’Ufia (sin-bin: 67-77).
Referee: R Debney (RFU)