London Irish 25 Gloucester 10: Strudwick glosses over the defects

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The Independent Online

This was a long, long game. A total of 20 minutes of injury time were played at the end of the two halves, and a healthily sized crowd felt every one of them, so lacking in ambition were both sides. On paper it was a comfortable win for London Irish, given a touch of gloss by Ryan Strudwick's try in the very last of those long minutes, but those watching had hoped for better.

Both sides had been playing some fine rugby of late and had rediscovered their try-scoring touches; the weather was fine and the crowd in good voice. But none of it swayed the two fly-halfs from a policy of relentless kicking.

Irish fared the better from the word go; Nick Kennedy and Bob Casey making a fine mess of the Gloucester line-out. They had won four Gloucester throws before they had even had to defend a lineout of their own. The penalties quickly started to stack up for the home side, and Barry Everitt converted five of them in the first half to give Irish a deserved 15-3 lead at the break.

Gloucester brought on Peter Richards for the second half and the England squad member with the flashing blond hair did get Gloucester moving to an extent, scoring a try to drag them back to within eight points at 18-10 in the 69th minute. Not that anyone got too excited, as the try, inevitably, came from a charged down kick.

Irish had begun to chance their arm a bit themselves by then, as well they might with a 15-point lead. But after Gloucester's try they went back into their shells, with only Strudwick sticking his neck out to score that late try, itself a ho-hum drive off a maul through some ho-hum defence. The ugly nature of the win did not concern Brian Smith, Irish's coach, whose side are now sitting pretty in third place, whichever way they've managed it. Dean Ryan, the Gloucester coach was less chuffed. "We looked a confused, startled side," he said.

London Irish: Try: Strudwick. Conversion: Everitt. Penalties: Everitt 6.

Gloucester: Try: Richards. Conversion: Mercier. Penalty: Mercier.

London Irish: R Flutey; D Armitage, R Penney, M Catt (capt; N Mordt, 80), J Bishop; B Everitt, B Willis (P Hodgson, 77); N Hatley, D Coetzee (R Russell, 77), F Rautenbach (R Skuse, 66), R Casey (R Strudwick, 80), N Kennedy, K Roche, D Danaher, P Murphy (P Gustard, 66).

Gloucester: O Morgan; R Thirlby, J Simpson-Daniel, T Fanolua (A Allen, 66), M Garvey (B Davies, 80); L Mercier, T Haydn (P Richards, ht); P Collazo (N Wood, 20), J Parkes, G Powell, A Eustace, Q Davids, P Buxton (capt), J Boer (A Balding, 15), J Forrester.

Referee: A Rowden (Berkshire).

Attendance: 9,027