London Irish 23
THE BATTLE between the exiles lost some of its particular Celtic lustre with the presence of so many southern hemisphere players on the field but that is the way of modern professional rugby.
Money breeds mercenaries and with the South African Jannie de Beer making his debut for Scottish at fly-half, and the former All Black and Westen Samoan Steve Bachop opposing him, there was the anticipation of an expansive game.
However, poor handling by both sides made for a turgid first half. De Beer had given Scottish a lead in the second minute with a penalty that bounced on the crossbar but it was Bachop who made the first incisive play. The fact that it was in the 23rd minute and originated from another Scottish turnover is testament to the scrappiness of the opening encounters.
Jarrod Cunningham sliced through the Scottish defense before offloading to Nick Burrows. Having made the initial pass 50 yards earlier, Bachop then popped up in support and wrong-footed the desperate cover defence by cutting inside to score.
With only winless West Hartlepool below them in the table, a more disciplined performance was needed by the Scots but again in the second half passes went to ground and mauls were turned over. Opportunities did present themselves, particularly as Bachop's kicking from hand often fell to the waiting wings or full-back, but it is no good if 30 yards up the pitch the ball is given away.
Irish looked to have sewn the game up with a blistering Niall Woods try in the 61st minute, Burrows' long miss-pass was weighted perfectly, allowing the winger to gather the ball without breaking stride or losing speed but, ever the underdogs, Scottish fought back.
Their second-half performance was more cohesive and purposeful but ultimately too little too late. Simon Holmes was carried over after a textbook catch and drive from seven metres out in the 66th minute, but the important next score didn't come until the final minute, Guy Easterby sprinting round to touch down underneath the posts.
London Scottish: R Smith; C Sharman, R Davies (J Bonney, 57), R Errikson, S Forrest; J de Beer, G Easterby; M McDonald, D Rudham, P Johnstone, E Jones, M Watson, S Fenn (G Manson-Bishop, 53), S Holmes, R Hunter.
London Irish: J Cunningham; R Todd, N Burrows, B Venter, N Woods; S Bachop, K Putt (P Richards, 68); N Hatley, R Kirke, R Hardwick (K Fullman, 68, R Strudwick, M Bird (R Gallagher, 68), J Boer, K Dawson, I Feaunati,
Referee: C Rees ( London)