If this is the future then it looks a Red Rose one. England's second string produced some exhilarating rugby in bitter conditions to see off a bold Ireland A. Appropriately, given the venue was Welford Road, it was a Leicester player, Tom Varndell, who stole the glory with two well taken tries. But it was a shining performance by a London Irish player, Shane Geraghty, which had the Irish reeling.
Geraghty's deft touches and speed had the opposition chasing shadows for much of the time. One of the moments of the match though was the one that led to Varndell's second try. Replacement prop David Wilson made a half-break, fed replacement hooker Dylan Hartley and his stunning offload, a reverse pass, found Varndell thundering in on the right for the clinching score.
Saxons initially kept it tight, so confident of their scrummaging superiority that they opted for successive penalty scrums within a quarter of an hour. The opening try followed as the Irish buckled under the pressure, David Paice slipping around the side and muscling through.
Ryan Lamb, who had countered Ireland A's first penalty by Andy Dunne with one of his own, failed with the conversion attempt and promptly left the field clutching his right shoulder.
The Irish battled back, lock Ryan Caldwell stealing a Saxon line-out then off-loading brilliantly to Trevor Hogan. Once recycled the quick right wing Tommy Bowe shot through the Saxons' defences. Dunne converted to nose the visitors in front.
Saxons looked far more purposeful from the start of the second half and within two minutes had forced a penalty that Delon Armitage, one of the London Irish Gang of Four, landed to restore Saxons to the lead.
Geraghty, at fly-half since Lamb's departure, came into his own, and it was his pinpoint kick to the right that presented Varndell with his first try. Armitage, increased the Saxons' lead with his second successful penalty shortly afterwards.
Then late in added time Armitage made it a night for Irish – London Irish that is – to celebrate, by scoring Saxons' fourth try and then converting it from wide out.
England Saxons: Tries Paice, Varndell 2, Armitage; Conversion Armitage; Penalties Lamb, Armitage 2.
Ireland A: Try Bowe; Conversion Dunne; Penaltie Dunne (2).
England Saxons: N Abendanon (Bath); T Varndell, O Smith (both Leicester), S Geraghty, D Armitage (both London Irish); R Lamb (Gloucester), L Dickson (Newcastle); N Wood (Gloucester), D Paice (London Irish), J Hobson (Bristol), T Palmer (Wasps), N Kennedy (London Irish), P Dowson, B Woods (both Newcastle), J Crane (Leicester; capt). Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton) for Paice, 50; D Wilson (Newcastle) for Hobson, 62; G Skivington (Wasps) for Palmer, 50; W Skinner (Harlequins) for Woods, 80+3; J Grindal (Newcastle) for Dickson, 80; A Allen (Gloucester) for Lamb, 19; M Brown (Harlequins) for Varndell, 79.
Ireland A: G Duffy (Connacht); T Bowe (Ulster), L Fitzgerald (Leinster), S Horgan (Leinster; capt), J Murphy (Leicester); A Dunne (Connacht), I Boss (Ulster); C Healy (Leinster), F Sheahan (Munster), B Young (Ulster), T Hogan (Leinster), R Caldwell (Ulster), S Keogh (Leinster), S Jennings (Leinster), A Quinlan (Munster). Replacements: A Flavin (Connacht) for Sheahan, 80; D Fitzpatrick (Ulster) for Young, 59; D Ryan (Munster) for Hogan, 64; D Pollock (Ulster) for Keogh, 80; C Keane (Leinster) for Boss, 76; N O'Connor (Ulster) for Dunne, 59; D O'Riordan (Connacht) for Murphy, 76.
Referee: P Allan (Scotland).Reuse content