Rugby Union: Harris keeps the Irish stewing

Coventry 16 London Irish 14
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The Independent Online
These are heady days for Coventry who clearly want to make the most of them as they nudged London Irish aside in the dying seconds of the opening leg of the National League play-offs at a packed Coundon Road last night, when Jez Harris dropped his second goal to ensure that Coventry will take a two-point advantage to Sunbury for Sunday's second instalment.

They have not had so much to cheer about at the old ground since David Duckham was principal boy there and Coventry were a real power in the land. Whether they will get a chance to try their hand against England's best next season will depend on whether Irish can raise their game sufficiently to subdue a Coventry team, whose unquenchable spirit and insistent single- mindedness took them to victory in a thrilling match, during which the lead changed hands seven times.

Irish played their part, of course. They scored a superb try by Niall Woods, after Nick Burrows opened up the Coventry defence with a slick pass for the only score of a frenzied first half.

Led splendidly by their flanker, Derek Eves, the home side refused to be overawed by their League One opponents and Jason Minshull ran in Coventry's try after Eves had scavenged the ball to provide for it.

Although the kickers completed the scoring, it was far from a match dominated by them. And, try as they did, Irish were unable to breach Coventry's defence a second time, and left it to David Humphreys to kick them ahead.

Three times the former Ireland outside-half obliged, though one miss with 10 minutes remaining was to prove extremely costly. But after Humphreys' third success, and with the clock ticking down, it looked as if Irish might just prevail. Harris, though, had other ideas.

Coventry: Try Minshull; Conversion Harris; Penalty Harris; Drop goals Harris 2. London Irish: Try Woods; Penalties Humphreys 3.

Coventry: M Gallagher; A McAdam, J Minshull, R Robinson, A Smallwood; J Harris, T Dawson; A Sharp (M Crane, 74), D Addleton, R Hardwick (capt), D Grewcock, A Blackmore, J Horrobin, D Eves, I Patten.

London Irish: C O'Shea; J Bishop, N Burrows, S Burns, N Woods; D Humphreys, N Hogan; J Fitzpatrick, T Redmond, G Halpin (capt), G Fulcher, J Davidson, K O'Connell, K Dawson (C Bird, 68), K Spicer.

Referee: G Hughes (Fareham).

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