Adrian Jarvis kicked a penalty three minutes from time to secure London Irish a 21-19 victory over Sale Sharks in an extremely close Premiership contest at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.
The game ebbed and flowed with both sides' at times making things very difficult for the opponent. Ultimately Irish just did enough to ensure the win and a vital four points.
Sale Sharks controlled the ball and the tempo of the game for the first 10 minutes and were rewarded with a try to full back Rob Miller. Steve Diamonds forwards were making inroads into the Exiles 22 before spinning the ball wide to Miller who showed good strength to force his way over. Nick Macleod added the conversion to give Sale a dream start.
Macleod kicked a further penalty to put his side 10 points in front before Irish sprang into action. The Irish pack showed strong defence to turn Sale ball over in their own 22. The ball was passed wide to Delon Armitage who went close to scoring only to be tackled a few metres out. The ball was retained tight before being passed back down the left flank for Bryn Evans to dive over. Homer added the conversion to cut the deficit to three points.
Irish were becoming far more prominent in the game and had two great attacking opportunities where tries would have been scored had they been more clinical. Steve Shingler, who was a guilty party with one poor pass, made amends with a delightful grubber kick that was pounced on by Topsy Ojo who scored his fifth try of the season. Irish led 12-10.
Topsy Ojo was at his attacking best and opened his legs with a trademark line break shortly before half time. Homer passed to the speedster who beat the first man and went on a wavy run before eventually being brought down by Dwayne Peel. It gave the Exiles great field position which they unfortunately couldn't take advantage of.
Sale made a better start to the second half and enjoyed good spells of possession. Nick Macleod was given the chance of three points on 49 minutes to put his side in front which he duly accepted.
Similarly as Irish had done in the first half they came back hard at the visitors and edged ahead once more through the boot of Homer who to his own high standards was not having his best game with the boot.
Sale were defensively putting Irish under huge pressure and were stopping the Irish ball carriers in their tracks on the gain line. The visitor's poor discipline was gifting Irish opportunities which they kept taking. On this occasion it was Adrian Jarvis who knocked the three points over.
The visitors retained possession for long periods of time and continued to come away with vital points. With eight minutes remaining Sale had a one point lead.
With four minutes remaining Adrian Jarvis, who played exceptionally well, sent a long range kick up field that was fumbled and knocked on by Rob Miller. From the resulting scrum the Irish tight forwards put on a huge squeeze to force a penalty. Jarvis stepped up to edge Irish ahead and to victory.
Cardiff visit the Madejski Stadium next week as Heineken Cup rugby returns.
For London Irish:
Tries: Evans, Ojo
Pens: Homer, Jarvis 2
For Sale Sharks:
Pens: Macleod 4
London Irish: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Topsy Ojo, 13 Jonathan Spratt, 12 Shontayne Hape, 11 Tom Homer, 10 Adrian Jarvis, 9 Darren Allinson, 8 Alex Gray 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Bryn Evans, 5 Matt Garvey, 4 Nick Kennedy, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 David Paice, 1 Clarke Dermody (captain).
Replacements: 16 James Buckland, 17 Alex Corbisiero, 18 Faan Rautenbach, 19 Bob Casey, 20 David Sisi, 21 Adam Thompstone, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Paul Hodgson
Sale: 15 Rob Miller, 14 Tom Brady, 13 Johnny Leota, 12 Sam Tuitupou (captain), 11 Joaquin Tuculet, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Dwayne Peel, 8 Andy Powell, 7 Onosa'i Auva'a, 6 Richie Vernon, 5 James Gaskell, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Andy Titterrell, 17 Lee Imiolek, 18 Vadim Cobilas, 19 Kearnan Myall, 20 Mark Easter, 21 Cillian Willis, 22 Luther Burrell, 23 Will Addison.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
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