London Irish 24 Toulouse 26: Geraghty gives notice of skills but Irish throw it away

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The Independent Online

How, with so much possession and position, did London Irish not beat Toulouse? The home side's two outstanding young England prospects, Shane Geraghty, 20, and Delon Armitage, 23, seemed to have done enough to ensure victory.

Armitage scored a hat-trick of tries and the passing of fly-half Geraghty was top drawer - whether long or short, hard and fast or simple pop balls, he never missed his receiver. He kicked out of hand well and given a few more kilos of muscle he will be able to power through the odd first-up tackle, rather as Barry Everitt did late in the game. There was plenty in Geraghty's display to cheer the watching England head coach, Brian Ashton.

The Exiles head coach, Brian Smith, said: "We were playing one of the outstanding teams in Europe and I am proud of the boys. I thought it was a gutsy performance and a brilliant display by our boys. But ultimately we just came up short. They were very professional and were able to slow down the ball on the line. It would not have happened in the Guinness Premiership."

There was some wonderful rugby and the Exiles' bold approach saw their backs, fired by some fabulous touches from Geraghty, repeatedly running at the visitors' defence. But Toulouse stood firm and were rewarded for their labours with a win which gives them an outside chance of qualification for the knockout stages.

It seemed that no matter what or who the rampant Irish threw at them, Toulouse were able to see off almost everything, even on the two occasions when they were reduced to 14 men. First Xavier Garbajosa and then Gregory Lamboley were sent to the sin-bin. On those rare occasions when the Exiles did breach the defensive line they could be counted on to lose possession somehow or other.

Forget spilled milk, Irish will have wept buckets over the spilled ball in this match. It didn't matter where they were - in contact or out in the open with a clear run to the line - they managed to let the ball slip out of their grasp with unerring, disturbing consistency. True, conditions did not lend themselves to secure handling, but some of the errors had little to do with the slippery ball and more to do with the timing of the receiver. Too often the ball was snatched at.

The bulk of the action took place in the visitors' half, such was the home side's dominance, but Toulouse still managed to score two tries in the opening 17 minutes, both through their right wing, Garbajosa. Later on Benoît Baby and Jean-Baptiste Elissalde ensured a maximum haul of five points with well-taken tries. But Armitage showed what a lethal finisher he can be, and the third of his touchdowns rattled the French and indicated that had Irish had a little more time they might well have snatched victory.

London Irish: D Armitage; T Ojo, G Tiesi (B Everitt, 52), S Mapusua, D Shabbo (R Flutey, 21); S Geraghty, P Hodgson (R Rees, 73); T Lea'aetoa, D Coetzee (D Paice, 53), F Rautenbach (R Skuse, 53), N Kennedy, R Casey (capt; J Hudson, 64), K Roche (A McCullen, 53), J Leguizamon, O Magne.

Toulouse: G Thomas; X Garbajosa, M Kunavore, B Baby, M Médard (Y Huget, 78); J-F Dubois (J-B Elissalde, 41), V Courrent (M Mermoz, 75); D Human (S Perugini, 75), V Lacombe (W Servat, 41), O Hasan (Perugini, 48-75), G Lamboley, T Brennan (R Millo-Chlusky, 58), J Bouilhou (capt), F Maka, J Montauriol (Y Nyanga, 38).

Referee: A Lewis (Ireland).

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