Sunday 13 April 2014 – 3.00pm
Madejski Stadium, Reading
Aviva Premiership #19
We’re at the final bend of this Premiership season and, following our defeat to Worcester last time out, stuff’s getting real.
The gap at the bottom of the table is still a useful nine points but since Worcester have just won their first league match in over a year, it would be crazy to take anything for granted and I’m sure the Falcons won’t.
By the time our lads run out in Beijing on Sunday afternoon, we will know the outcome of Worcester’s home clash with Exeter tomorrow. If the Warriors can get a win, then the pressure will be cranked up, though of course you would hope the motivation would be too.
London Irish are the only English side to lose at Kingston Park this season, returning south with defeats in both the Premiership and LV= Cup in the autumn, so that’s a half-decent cause for optimism. The league encounter, our last Premiership victory, was settled by Phil Godman’s conversion of Adam Powell’s try, and Shane Geraghty running out of time to kick over a last-gasp penalty under pressure from the wind and the referee.
The Falcons also have a better record at the Madejski Stadium than some Premiership grounds. Our last win there was in November 2009, following victories there in September 2001, November 2003 and February 2006 too. Jimmy Gopperth was the 2009 hero on James Hudson’s first return to Reading, kicking five penalties in our 11-15 success.
Va’aiga Tuigamala also inspired a 3-20 victory over then-Readingers Richmond in the 1999 Tetley’s Bitter Cup semi-final.
Falcons at London Irish:
04/12/1982 Sunbury Club Match D13-13
19/11/1988 Sunbury Division 2 L7-35
20/04/1991 Sunbury Division 2 L16-24
09/04/1994 Sunbury Division 1 W19-17
29/04/1995 Sunbury Division 2 L22-32
27/04/1996 Sunbury Division 2 L28-29
01/11/1997 Sunbury Premiership 1 W35-19
02/01/1999 Sunbury Premiership 1 L14-16
03/10/1999 The Stoop Premiership 1 L8-56
05/12/2000 Madejski Stadium Premiership L17-19
23/09/2001 Madejski Stadium Premiership W22-18
29/12/2002 Madejski Stadium Premiership L0-20
23/11/2003 Madejski Stadium Premiership W19-15
21/11/2004 Madejski Stadium Premiership L15-21
12/02/2006 Madejski Stadium Premiership W9-6
03/03/2007 Madejski Stadium Premiership L12-38
23/09/2007 Madejski Stadium Premiership L0-19
03/01/2009 Madejski Stadium Premiership L8-48
22/11/2009 Madejski Stadium Premiership W15-11
12/02/2011 Madejski Stadium Premiership L14-23
24/09/2011 Madejski Stadium Premiership L29-46
23/10/2011 Madejski Stadium Cup L23-39
Our dismal downing by Dean Ryan and co. two weeks ago stretched the Falcons’ losing run in the Premiership to a record twelve games. Irish meanwhile are on a disappointing run of four consecutive defeats themselves following losses at home to Bath and Leicester and away to Exeter and Harlequins.
In the league this season, Irish have amazingly only won two games at the Madejski Stadium – against Harlequins in October and Worcester in January. Even in their ‘home’ opening game, at Twickenham in September, Saracens ran out 20-42 winners.
Away from home they only have three triumphs, leaving the Exiles isolated in tenth place nine points behind Exeter and seven ahead of ourselves. Irish are one of only two Premiership sides not to have a try bonus point in the league this season, along with Worcester.
Cavalieri Prato, Stade Francais and Lusitanos were all sent home with no points in the Amlin Challenge Cup, though a defeat in Paris put paid to Irish’s hopes of qualification for last weekend’s quarter-finals, and in the LV= Cup at home Irish beat Scarlets 29-10 in February but had already lost heavily to Northampton in November, ruining hopes of progress there too.
Dan Leo from Wasps and Sean Cox from Edinburgh have already been signed with the aim of strengthening the pack next season, when Brian Smith will have to do without England winger Marland Yarde and talismanic Aussie James O’Connor, both of whom will be on their way.
Dean Richards has sprung a few selection surprises for this game, notably a centre pairing of Lee Smith and Jamie Helleur outside Rory Clegg in the ten shirt, while Warren Fury continues at scrum-half. Will Welch, Matt Thompson and Ryan Shortland are back from injury and Sunday will be, I think, Grant Shiells’ first Premiership start of the season. Dom Barrow is a welcome name on the bench.
Falcons: 15 Noah Cato, 14 Ryan Shortland, 13 Jamie Helleur, 12 Lee Smith, 11 Sinoti Sinoti, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Warren Fury, 1 Grant Shiells, 2 Matt Thompson, 3 Oliver Tomaszczyk, 4 Scott MacLeod, 5 Fraser McKenzie, 6 Will Welch (c), 7 Andy Saull, 8 Mark Wilson.
Replacements: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Gary Strain, 18 Scott Wilson, 19 Dom Barrow, 20 Richard Mayhew, 21 Mike Blair, 22 Joel Hodgson, 23 James Fitzpatrick.
Former Falcons Andrew Fenby and Mike Mayhew start for the Exiles, who boast a tonne of international experience with O’Connor, Tomás O’Leary and replacement Ian Gough.
Irish: 15 James O’Connor, 14. Topsy Ojo, 13 Fergus Mulchrone, 12 Eamonn Sheridan, 11 Andrew Fenby, 10 Shane Geraghty, 9 Tomás O’Leary, 1 Matt Parr, 2 Mike Mayhew, 3 Leo Halavatau, 4 George Skivington (c), 5 Nic Rouse, 6 Blair Cowan, 7 Gerard Ellis, 8 Ofisa Treviranus.
Replacements: 16 Jimmy Stevens, 17 John Yapp, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Ian Gough, 20. Bryn Evans, 21 Alex Lewington, 22 Myles Dorrian, 23 Darren Allinson.
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