WITH THE HEINEKEN Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup set to take over the rugby world in the next fortnight, there was one last chance for players to seal a place in their provinces starting teams over the weekend.
The likes of London Irish, Bath and Worcester will all be part of the second-tier of European competition this season, and those three sides feature Irish players, many of whom were out to impress in the Premiership. A step below, the Championship had a full schedule, so here we catch up on how the Irish guys got on.
Round five of England’s top league kicked off on Friday night as Peter Stringer‘s Bath lost 19-13 to the Sale Sharks. The scrum-half played 67 minutes of the clash and set up a try for Semesa Rokoduguni when he intelligently switched play to the blind side. However, the 35-year-old couldn’t prevent his side losing, and Bath remain in fourth place.
London Irish enjoyed an 18-13 win at home against Harlequins on Saturday afternoon, with Eamonn Sheridan and Tomás O’Leary both starting. There was also a 17-minute cameo from Ireland international Jamie Hagan in the second half. Sheridan played the entire game, leading a proactive defensive effort by the Exiles as they picked up their second win of the season to go eighth.
Worcester’s 16-11 lose to the Newcastle Falcons was notable for the two Irish front rows who came off the bench in the second period. Tight head John Andress played 18 minutes after replacing Euan Murray for Worcester, while Ireland U20 international George McGuigan featured for the closing quarter at hooker in what was his third Premiership appearance of the season.
Niall Morris continued his run at fullback for the Leicester Tigers as they drew 19-19 with the Northampton Saints at Welford Road. All four of the former Leinster man’s starts this season have come in his preferred 15 jersey, and Joe Schmidt will be following his progress closely ahead of the November internationals. Leicester stay in third following this result.
Exeter Chiefs claimed a superb 29-12 victory away to Gloucester yesterday, with former Ulster out-half Gareth Steenson kicking 19 points in total. The 29-year-old converted two tries and knocked over five penalties, although he did miss another nine points from the tee. Ian Whitten moved into the centre for the Chiefs and coped well against Gloucester’s talented back line.
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Plymouth were beaten 22-20 at home by London Scottish despite the best efforts of Irish quintet Davy McGregor, Eoghan Grace, Ruairi Cushion, Paul Rowley and Ben Woods. McGregor featured at hooker, while former Connacht flanker Grace scored a 25th-minute try on his third start of the season. Cushion played the majority of the encounter at scrum-half, before being replaced late on by Rowley. Former Leinster U20 and ‘A’ centre Woods made his third start of the season at outside centre, having joined from Old Belvedere during the summer.
In the back row for London Scottish was Neil Best, the ex-Ireland international back row. Now 34, the Belfast native played the full 80 minutes as his side went sixth in the table. Plymouth are one place behind.
Kieran Hallet, once of Ulster Rugby, played the final 24 minutes of the Cornish Pirates 28-13 win against Moseley. The out-half was replaced by Australian Angus Sinclair at number 10, but managed to kick a conversion and two penalties when he came on. His side are now fourth in the Championship.
The Ealing Trailfinders’ miserable start to the season continued with a 64-3 defeat against Leeds. Ex-Ireland U20 tight head prop Conor Carey got his first start of the campaign, although he was withdrawn just before half-time. Ulster native TJ Anderson came off the bench for the closing stages as the Trailfinders remain rock bottom of the league.
Rotherham Titans suffered a 27-32 loss at home to London Welsh, with Ali Birch, Charlie Mulchrone and Michael Keating in the starting XV. Birch and Keating both scored tries, while former Ireland U18 international Mulchrone did well at scrum-half. This was the Titans first defeat of the season, but they remain second in the league.
Part of the victorious London Welsh team was 34-year-old lock Daniel Browne, who never managed to earn an international call-up during his time with Grenoble, Northampton, Bath and Leeds.
Adam D’Arcy started at fullback as Andy Robinson’s Bristol side secured a 45-27 win at home to the Bedford Blues. On the right wing for the away team was Corey Hircock, who spent several seasons with Munster in the recent past.
Jersey pulled off a superb 22-19 win away in Nottingham, with Niall O’Connor‘s 17 points from the boot proving crucial. The ex-Ulster out-half was directly opposite former Connacht number 10 Matt Jarvis, who kicked 11 points. Neilus Keogh, who joined from Italian side Lazio during the summer started for Nottingham in the second row, while Jersey’s team also included Mark McCrea on the right wing.