Rugby Union: Irish passion just enough

London Irish 24 Leicester 23
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The Independent Online
THE MATCH programmes were late and so were London Irish. They left it very late indeed before getting the drop on second-placed Leicester, who had their hands full trying to subdue the irrepressible home team. If the Tigers represented power play, the Exiles personified passion play. Passion told, but only just.

Yer Man, the Irish captain Conor O'Shea, cool as you like dropped a goal in the first minute of injury time just when Leicester thought they had nicked it with a sucker punch by Leicester scrum-half Austin Healey. The diminutive England player had dummied his way over for a try with just eight minutes remaining, and Joel Stransky's conversion nudged the second- placed side in front, but they then had to withstand a mighty battering.

The first half pace was frenetic, the work-rate awesome, the action non- stop. No sooner had the hero of the night, O'Shea, cut a cute angle inside centre Nick Burrows to touch down under the posts and give Niall Woods a simple conversion than the Tigers were level again, and through the softest of tries.

Straight from the restart the ball danced a jig through the flailing Irish arms until Leon Lloyd got his hands on it and raced over. Stransky did the honours, then landed two penalties, one of which had been pulled back by Woods before half time.

The Exiles were straight back in the Tigers' faces after the interval. A Burrows break with support took the ball into the Tigers' den and from the ensuing ruck Ireland lock Malcolm O'Kelly picked up and flung his considerable bulk straight and low over the line. Woods flunked the conversion but his second and third penalties provided more substance to the cushion which Healey briefly destroyed before O'Shea's drop goal.

London Irish: Tries O'Shea, O'Kelly; Conversion Woods; Penalties Woods 3; Drop goal O'Shea. Leicester: Tries Lloyd, Healey; Conversions Stransky 2; Penalties Stransky 3.

London Irish: C O'Shea (capt); J Bishop, N Burrows, B Venter, N Woods; M Jones (J Brown, 54), K Campbell (P Richards, 63); M Worsley, R Kirke, K Fullman,N Harvey, M O'Kelly, J Boer, R Gallacher, K Dawson.

Leicester: T Stimpson (M Horak, 22); L Lloyd, W Greenwood, P Howard, N Ezulike; J Stransky, A Healey; D Jelley, D West, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F Van Heerden (N Fletcher, 12), P Gustard (L Moody, 66), M Corry, N Back.

Referee: S Lander (Liverpool)