Rugby Union: Woods brings out the tiger instinct in London Irish

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The Independent Online
London Irish 23 Gloucester 19

GLOUCESTER foundered on the rocks of London Irish at chilly Sunbury last night. Two late penalties by the Ireland wing Niall Woods, who also ran in two tries, earned the Exiles a well-deserved victory - their third in the Allied Dunbar Premiership since the former England and Harlequins coach, Dick Best, took up his temporary appointment.

A fighting performance from both sides saw Irish leapfrog Wasps near the bottom of the table; Gloucester hover just outside the European elite.

The Gloucester stand-off, Mark Mapletoft, had a curate's egg of a first half. He began it by messing up a pass to Richard Tombs. David Humphreys hoofed it upfield and Woods took up the chase, fly-hacking over the line before flinging himself on the ball. He then converted his try. And Mapletoft finished the half by missing a fourth penalty which would have taken Gloucester ahead.

Not content with leading with their chin for one sucker punch, Gloucester fell for another in the opening half. The Irish No 8, Isaac Feaunati, picked up at a scrum close to the line, slipped the ball outside to the scrum-half, Peter Richards, who dummied outside before cutting back inside to score.

They then spent the rest of the half suffering rugby's equivalent of the water torture as Mapletoft chipped away at the difference with three penalties and a sharp drop goal.

But the Exiles emerged for the second half fired up. Woods found himself on the end of an exquisite move which left him needing a simple dummy to the full-back Chris Catling before he dived over for his second.

Opportunities went begging on both sides but Gloucester began to assert themselves. Once close enough to the line Gloucester's forwards came into their own. Every time a penalty was awarded against the Exiles, Gloucester opted for the scrum and after a punishing period of some five minutes, the No 8, Simon Devereux, just had to drop on the ball for the try. Mapletoft's conversion nosed them ahead for the first time - but it was short-lived. Two foolish penalties saw Woods punish both with his boot.

London Irish: Tries Woods 2, Richards; Conversion Woods; Penalties Woods 2. Gloucester: Try Devereux; Conversion Mapletoft; Penalties Mapletoft 3; Drop Mapletoft.

London Irish: D Charles; J Bishop, B Venter, M McCall, N Woods; D Humphreys, P Richards; L Mooney, R Kellam, I McLaughlin (J Fitzpatrick, 69), N Harvey (capt), G Fulcher, K Spicer, I Feaunati, K Dawson.

Gloucester: C Catling (C Emmerwon, 56); A Lumsden, T Fanolua, R Tombs, P Saint-Andre; M Mapletoft, S Benton; T Windo, C Fortey (N McCarthy, 73), A Deacon, R Fidler, D Sims, P Glanville (capt), S Devereux (S Ojomoh, 77), N Carter.

Referee: R Goodliffe (Sheffield).