Geraghty's class lets Irish enjoy sense of déjà vu

Harlequins 17 London Irish 32
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The Independent Online

Rare to report that England's midfield options may be growing in number – generally, the script to follow is akin to that of an episode of Casualty – but Shane Geraghty made it through all but a smidgen of his second start of the season for London Irish and had a cultured hand in a burst of three tries in nine second-half minutes which kept his club in with a good shout of progress in the EDF Energy Cup. Somewhat lost amid the fuss of Danny Cipriani's rise, Geraghty has endured a frustrating 18 months of five injuries – hamstring, broken hand, knee ligaments, shoulder and ankle – since his two England caps in the 2007 Six Nations' Championship. The blond fly-half/centre was watched here by Brian Smith, not that the England attack coach needs much telling about Geraghty, having coached Irish for three years before joining the national set-up.

True to Irish's defensive policy, the first sight of Geraghty was the incongruous one of him packing down at No 8 on a Harlequins put-in. The Irish, now under the charge of Toby Booth and Mike Catt, but still hugely influenced by Smith's tactical thinking, do have their idiosyncratic ways.

For the second time at the Stoop this season it was more than Harlequins could cope with. Quins fielded mostly second-stringers, though that had worked well enough in the single-point defeat at the Ospreys in the opening pool matches. When yesterday's stand-in captain, the flanker Neil McMillan, scored Quins' third try after 45 minutes, his side led 17-5. But that all changed with the quick-fire trio of Irish tries, which featured sumptuous handling and fine appreciation of the wide channels. Quins hardly laid a hand on Peter Hewat, Adam Thompstone and James Bailey, and it was miserably reminiscent of last month's Premiership meeting here, when the home side led 20-3 but lost 28-27. "Déjà vu," Booth called it.

You would guess that Geraghty would be behind Toby Flood, Cipriani and Riki Flutey in the England pecking order, though at the rate the national side's midfield backs go down injured, anything could happen in the next fortnight. Even if Geraghty is not on the Twickenham field, Smith's gameplan will be. "The fundamental of playing with width is to have pace," Booth said. In that regard, Irish and Geraghty were thankful for their new Argentinian scrum-half, Alfredo Lalanne, who stepped off the plane in midweek and off the bench here just before the try-rush.

By the EDF Cup rule of thumb of "two away ties bad, two at home good", Ospreys and Worcester should be the favourites in this pool. But Irish will host the Welsh region – who have not been at their best of late – in the final pool match next Sunday and, with Geraghty possibly released by England to continue his comeback, will fancy themselves to earn a semi-final in March.

Tries by George Robson and Charlie Amesbury had Quins 12-0 up. But Irish's first try in the 36th minute by Richard Thorpe, who bundled over on the short side of a scrum, hinted at the turnaround to come. Thorpe was stamped on by Ignacio Elosu, who went to the sin-bin on the hour. Though Geraghty missed three kicks at goal (Hewat handed the tee over after taking a minor knock), he put a penalty over for a 25-17 lead after 62 minutes, and Hewat's try, converted by Eoghan Hickey, finished it off.

Harlequins: T Williams; S Stegmann, T Masson, E Taione (DW Barry, 55), C Amesbury; S Jewell (C Malone, 58), G Williams (D Care, 58); A Croall, C Brooker (A Rogers, 71), M Lambert (I Elosu, 55), J Percival, G Robson, P Davies (Rogers, 61-71), T Guest, N McMillan (capt).

London Irish: P Hewat; J Bailey, D Shabbo, C Gower, A Thompstone; S Geraghty (E Hickey, 77), T Parker (A Lalanne, 47); C Dermody (capt), J Buckland (D Paice, 40), F Rautenbach (D Murphy, 69), G Johnson (B Casey, 69), J Hudson, D Danaher, J Fisher (R Thorpe, 34), S Armitage.

Referee: G Garner (London).

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