Everitt the ice man steals win for Irish

Saracens 19 London Irish 20
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The Independent Online

It had been cold enough beforehand, but Saracens must have frozen further when they saw Barry Everitt lining up the last kick of the match yesterday, because the London Irish fly-half has ice in his veins at such crucial times.

And he has made a habit of settling tight games with a last-second drop goal or penalty in the past. This was going to be no different. "You don't get too nervous when Barry steps up to the plate," said a relieved Brian Smith, the Exiles' director of rugby.

It had come courtesy of the Saracens full-back Dan Scarbrough, who failed to roll away after tackling Mike Catt. The countdown clock showed no time left, other than for the kick. The Exiles were trailing by two points following an equally dramatic penalty by the Saracens fly-half Glen Jackson three minutes earlier.

Now in the 11th minute of added time Everitt, one of the most successful kickers in the history of the Premiership, was teeing up another vital kick. It was out on the right. "I had had a practice kick from out there before the start of the match," Everitt said later.

The practice paid off. The ball sailed between the uprights, Irish moved up to fourth in the table and Saracens heads dropped. All they had was the consolation of a losing bonus point.

But they had not done enough, early enough, to deserve victory. Indeed it was not until the mass brawl at the start of the second half that anyone in the 12,923 crowd - their highest gate of the season at Vicarage Road - realised Saracens were actually at this match. Until that point it was easy to imagine them stranded somewhere around the M25, so complete had been Irish's domination of proceedings in the first half.

Everitt's grubber after a spell of serious pressure had led to Michael Horak racing on to the ball and touching down for the Exiles' only try, which Everitt converted. He then landed a drop goal to go with two of his four penalties and Irish were well in charge at the interval.

Everitt had just added a third penalty when it all went off. Saracens' Ben Skirving and the London Irish wing Delon Armitage sparked off a 25-man brawl and a stunning fight-back by the home team.

The highlight of that fight-back was Saracens' try, which was triggered by the centre Kevin Sorrell, who retrieved a loose ball, shrugged off three tackles before unloading in the fourth to Paul Bailey. He fed Tevita Vaikona, who powered closer to the line, and when the move broke down the prop Hamish Mitchell was on hand to touch down for his first try for the club on his Premiership debut.

Jackson's conversion and 88th-minute penalty had transformed an 11-point deficit into a slender lead, sadly there was still enough time for Everitt to steal Jackson's thunder.

Saracens: Try Mitchell; Conversion Jackson; Penalties Jackson 4.

London Irish: Try Horak; Penalties Everitt 4; Drop goal Everitt.

Saracens: D Scarbrough; P Bailey, K Sorrell , B Johnston (M Bartholomeusz, 11-20), T Vaikona; G Jackson, A Dickens (K Bracken, 65); K Yates, S Byrne (M Cairns, 62), B Broster (H Mitchell, 62), S Raiwalui (T Randell, 62), K Chesney, H Vyvyan (capt), B T Russell, B Skirving.

London Irish: M Horak; D Armitage, R Penney, N Mordt (M Catt, 80+7), J Bishop, B Everitt, P Hodgson (D Edwards, 75); N Hatley, D Coetzee (R Russell, 62-80+9), F Rautenbach (D Wheatley, 65), R Casey (capt), K Roche (R Strudwick, 76), P Gustard, D Danaher, J Leguizamon (P Murphy, 76).

Referee: W Barnes (London).