Rumour has it Leeds have lost their captain Stuart Hooper who has apparently signed for Bath. Unsurprising with Steve Borthwick having agreed his future with Saracens, it makes sense even though the Leeds coach Stuart Lancaster denied the signing of Hooper. It did not affect the result of an interesting match, though it could have especially as Peter Hewat missed with every conversion and kicked only two penalties.
"We were in a position to win the game, then lost it," said Lancaster. "We were not quite clinical enough to put it away. Today was an opportunity missed."
Irish last won away from home in the Premiership on 10 March last season, since when they have qualified for a quarter-final in the Heineken Cup, though struggled in the League. With Paul Hodgson making his 100th first-team appearance, they made six changes from the side who qualified.
With a penalty to each side, the first by Hewat, the second by Alberto di Bernardo, when Irish were awarded the next penalty, they chose to scrummage rather than kick for goal. No matter, the next time they were in range of the Leeds line, Delon Armitage scored in the corner. Hewat's conversion missed narrowly.
He was no nearer when Tomas de Veida went over, Shane Geraghty started the move, Nick Kennedy took it on for De Veida to cross. It was by a distance the best handling of the match. Di Bernardo then added a second penalty, before Hewat made it 16-6 with his second attempt at goal.
Rhys Oakley was involved in an awful mix-up in the Irish centre. When the Irish full-back had his jersey pulled, the referee ignored it but blew at another Irish player for knocking on; from the ensuing scrum a missed tackled allowed John Holtby to make ground and put Leigh Hinton across at the corner.
Sailosi Tagicakibau was next on the scorecard making the most of a quickly tapped penalty for a try. Hewat again missed with the conversion, though Di Bernardo added a penalty to make Leeds worth at least a losing bonus point; but they then drew level with a Tom Biggs try.
Irish answered that with replacement hooker David Paice scoring a try in the left corner which, unaccountably, Hewat failed to convert. With less than a minute left on the clock the full-back missed with a kickable penalty. Never mind, Irish won, and fully deserved to.
Leeds: Tries Hinton, Biggs. Conversion Di Bernardo. Penalties Di Bernardo (4). Irish: Tries Armitage, De Veida, Tagicakibau, Paice. Pens Hewat (2).
Leeds: L Hinton; J Holtby, J Hepworth, L Blackett (A Tuiliagi, 57), T Biggs; A Di Bernardo, J Bedford (capt); M MacDonald, V Ma'asi, T McGee (F Pala'amo, 56) P Bouza, E Lund, J Dunbar, C Clark, R Oakley (A Balding, 56).
London Irish: P Hewat; T De Veida, D Armitage, S Geraghty (G Tiesi, 75), S Tagicakibau; E Hickey, P Hodgson (W Fury, h-t); T Lea'aetoa (D Murphy, 74), D Coetzee (D Paice, 53), F Rautenbach (P Murphy h-t), N Kennedy, B Casey (capt/J Hudson, 60), K Roche (S Armitage, 61), D Danaher, R Thorpe.
Referee: M Fox (Leicester).