Rugby Union: Irish exiled from First Division

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The Independent Online
Bristol. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21

London Irish. . . . . . . . . . . . . .8

WHATEVER blarney might have buoyed up Irish hopes of First Division survival was silenced emphatically at Bristol. There will be no exiles next year in England's premier league.

On Saturday's performance, in contrast to a week earlier against Wasps, the Irish did not deserve a reprieve. Always enthusiastic spoilers, they stopped making progress when they were no longer allowed to live offside, could have been beaten by 40 points and eventually fizzled out to a Bristol playing no more than ordinary, but eventually high work-rate rugby.

'We have to be pragmatic,' the Irish team manager, Kieran McCarthy, said. 'It's gone. Today was only a lifeline, we came in hope, but it didn't work out. There was a lack of discipline (penalties were 80 per cent against the Irish) and the midfield let us down, they froze.'

He was also ready to point out the irony of having been granted a postponement of the fixture in January because they had three top players out on international duty. Nearly three months later they again had three missing. Ray Hennessy is with the Barbarians while both Jim Staples and Simon Geoghehan had gone to Bermuda for some tournament or other.

Geoghehan will, in any case, not have to pay the penalty of playing second division rugby. He is registered with Bath, who were also giving a depleted Bristol faithful some perverse pleasure when it was announced gleefully over the Tannoy that Quins had pulled back from 19-0 down to 22 and then 25-19.

There was a Gloucester- type silence in response to the final result, but the crowd had, in any case, been below average. Tom Wynne Jones, the secretary, said this could have been because of the television competition, or because holidays are now more of a family affair.

But his concerns over the effect of much more live television under the deal with Sky were being echoed around the committee rooms. With continuing financial commitments under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act they cannot afford to see gates, and consequent bar takings, down.

'All of us would want controlled exposure of live television,' Wynne Jones said. 'The first we heard of the Sky deal was in the newspapers. It seems we have been sold as a piece of property but we have yet to hear the details. I hope that some of the money coming in will help clubs like ours.'

Bristol: Tries Saverimutto, Kitchin; Conversion Tainton; Penalties Tainton 3. London Irish: Try Corcoran; Penalty Corcoran.

Bristol: P Hull; D John, A Saverimutto, R Knibb, R Kitchin; M Tainton, K Bracken; A Sharp, M Regan, D Hinkins, S Shaw, A Blackmore (R Armstrong, 65), I Patten, C Barrow, D Eves (capt).

London Irish: P Burke; M Corcoran, R Henderson, D Curtis, S Burns; S Cathcart, R Saunders; M McCormack, R Kellam, G Halpin, C Hall, A Higgins, P Neary, P Collins, C Bird.

Referee: G Seddon (Wigan).