Rugby Union: Woods chips in with 23 points as London Irish put their best foot forward

Click to follow
London Irish 38 Bristol 23

NO sooner had Dick Best, the former England coach, occupied the hot seat at Sunbury vacated by Willie Anderson than Brendan Venter lost possession in a tackle and David Tieueti crossed for Bristol.

Venter, like Best, has just joined the Exiles and it was the Springbok's first touch of the ball. This may have been a basement scrap between the two most desperate teams in the Premiership but you would never have guessed it.

Last night's game had everything, including a fairy-tale ending for Best and the Irish who, prior to last night, had won only one league game all season.

The Irish, with a try from their dynamic Western Samoan No 8, Isaac Feaunati, and Bristol's penchant for conceding penalties, led 11-7 at half-time.

Within minutes Bristol were 17-11 ahead courtesy of a try from Adam Larkin, a New Zealander with an Irish passport.

The Irish - having forsaken their green jerseys for black in order to look more menacing - responded with spectacular tries from Niall Woods, Connor O'Shea and Justin Bishop.

With Woods in fine kicking form, the winger's contribution was 23 points.

While the Irish were doing their best for the new coach, Anderson was back in Dungannon. He had been with the club for 15 months and when he met the board in midweek it was to discuss the possibility of moving his family from Northern Ireland to London.

What brought matters to a head was Leicester's decision to dispense with Bob Dwyer. By Tuesday, Dwyer had been approached by London Irish. By Thursday, Best had been appointed on a short-term basis.

The Exiles have once again turned to an Englishman after an eventful liaison with Anderson's predecessor, Clive Woodward, the present England coach. Best has yet to sign a contract although he has severed links with Western Province.

London Irish: Tries Feaunati, Woods, O'Shea, Bishop; Conversions Woods 3; Penalties Woods 4. Bristol: Tries Tieueti, Larkin; Conversions Burke 2; Penalties Burke 3.

London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); J Bishop, B Venter, M McCall, N Woods; D Humphreys, P Richards; L Mooney, T Redmond, G Halpin, N Harvey, M O'Kelly, K O'Connell, I Feaunati, K Dawson.

Bristol: J Lewsey, D Tieueti, S Martin, A Larkin, P Hull; P Burke, R Jones (capt), K Fullman, F Landreau, M Worsley, P Adams, T Devergie, S Pearce, E Rollitt, J Coad.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool).