London Irish Wild Geese 19, Clifton 29
This week the Wild Geese hosted Clifton in what was a need to win fixture. Before the game, the Geese sat in 13th in National 2 South, three points clear of Old Redcliffians and the relegation zone. With a number of injuries to Geese players recently, Head Coach Lee Starling started at Number 8. George Dean and Zaki Chamnaoui kept their starting shirts this week at loose-head and tight-head respectively. Billy Fowler replaced Brad Clements for his first Geese start of the season. The second-row pairing remained the same with Calum Haggett and George Drye. Club captain Scott Moore returned to the openside with Pat White on the blindside and the formerly mention Lee Starling completed the starting pack.
New signing, Ross Parsons returned for his second start for the Geese due to Chico U’Chong being ruled out through injury. Sean Cunningham also returned from injury to replace the now injured and retired Alfie Molloy in the centre. George Owen kept his favoured position on the wing as Russell Bennett was moved to full back with Frederick Bunting on the other wing.
The subs included academy prop Brandon Baker; prop Henry Paul; second row Sam Hobbins; back row Joe Touma and full back Peter Hodgkinson.
Clifton started strong and made the most of their dominance in the scrum with an early penalty, which would be the case for the rest of the scrummaging for the afternoon, the kick to the corner and subsequent lineout maul resulted in a Clifton try three minutes into the game. Clifton converted to take them to 7.
Three phases, a number of missed tackles and a simple spread of the ball across the pitch and back saw Clifton go over for another try in the fifth minute. The conversion attempt was unsuccessful and Clifton now led 12 points to 0.
As Clifton dominated at scrum time, Irish started to show their dominance in the lineout, making sure that the visitors weren’t going to have an easy day in the air with early lineout steals from Calum Haggett.
Clifton’s third try came in the thirteenth minute in a very similar fashion to their second. From a dominant scrum on the halfway line, they spread the ball wide to the other side of the pitch and in no more than three phases again, their backs were able to break through the forwards out wide and cross the whitewash. The successful conversion attempt put the Bristol men 19 points clear of the Exiles.
In the latter end of the first half, Irish finally looked like they had some wind in their sails. A number of prospective half breaks of the Clifton defensive line, saw Ross Parsons break through around the fringe of a ruck and dot down to get the Geese on the board. Seers converted to make it 7 – 19 in favour of the visitors.
The Wild Geese, now with Peter Hodgkinson on the pitch kept the momentum rolling as a lineout steal by Pat White on the Clifton 22 and subsequent line-break by Hodgkinson set up George Drye to get Irish’s second on the 29 minute mark to bring us back within 7 of Clifton.
For the rest of the half Irish showed how they can play with sustained pressure in defence and looking threatening at every attacking phase. A line break Coach Starling and quick recycling of the ball, before a cross field kick from Alex Seers into the in goal area for Brad Meeson to collect and score Irish’s third try of the afternoon. Seers couldn’t convert from the touchline and the score stayed at 17-19 for half time.
The second half was another plucky performance for the Geese, even with the numerous line breaks, they couldn’t convert scoring opportunities into points on the board. While their defence held up for the majority of the half, limiting Clifton’s scores to just a converted try in the 63rd minute and a penalty 6 minutes after to bring the score to 17-29 in favour of Clifton.
Clifton continued to exert massive pressure on the Irish scrum who conceded 6 penalties and a yellow card for Henry Paul in the 74th minute. While Irish managed to dominate at the lineout. Winning the contest in the air, however not able to secure the loose ball on occasion.
The Geese now sit 14th in the table with 51 points and will be getting relegated to London and South East Premier should they fail to overtake 13th place Barnstaple (51) or 12th place Old Redcliffians (53). Next week the Geese travel to 8th place Henley before hosting 9th place Worthing in the final game of the season on the 28th.
London Irish Wild Geese
- George Dean
- Billy Fowler
- Zaki Chamnaoui
- George Drye
- Calum Haggett
- Pat White
- Scott Moore (c)
- Lee Starling
- Ross Parsons
- Alex Seers
- George Owen
- Sean Cunningham
- Brad Meeson
- Freddy Bunting
- Russell Bennett
- Brandon Baker
- Henry Paul
- Sam Hobbins
- Joe Touma
- Peter Hodgkinson