London Irish 27 Cardiff Blues 23: Lomu looks on as Blues fall short at death

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Alas for Cardiff, the first was never likely to happen but, happily for everyone else, the BBC cameras beamed plenty of shots of the watching Jonah Lomu on to the big screen.

The big man is poised to make his latest comeback any week now for the Blues, possibly this weekend in Italy against Calvisano, but more probably in the return a week later at the Arms Park.

By then, he will hope his new team-mates have found more cohesion than they showed here. Cardiff will not be pleased that they failed to beat a second-string Irish outfit when they, unlike their young hosts, had something to play for.

A snap drop goal in injury time from 40 yards by the Irish youngster Shane Geraghty put paid to a second-half comeback by the visitors, who had not played for a month. It showed in a first half that saw them concede three tries.

Cardiff looked haunted by the fact that they needed the win to put pressure on Wasps and they duly elected to shoot at goal whenever they were awarded penalties. They succeeded with two, but the swaggering young Exiles were troubled by no such concerns. They had a host of kickable penalties and chose to do anything but convert them.

One was sent to the corner, one was scrummaged and the next was tapped. Paul Gustard was driven over for the first try in the sixth minute and the routine was repeated 20 minutes later for Gustard's second.

Having driven through the Blues, for their next trick Irish ran them ragged. The young fly-half Ross Laidlaw knifed through in the 36th minute and found Rodd Penney in support to take Irish out to 21-6.

The Blues re-grouped and started kicking their penalties into the corner. From one such line-out, Mike Phillips barged over before the break and the comeback was on.

Both sides wasted opportunities in the second half but the visitors wasted more. Gareth Williams drove through another line-out to get the Blues to within a point, whereupon both sides started to go for goal again. One apiece set the stage for Geraghty's late intervention. There was much cheering. Then the cameras turned on Jonah again and the Wasps score came through.

London Irish: Tries Gustard 2, Penney; Conversions Laidlaw 3; Penalty Everitt; Drop goal Geraghty. Cardiff Blues: Tries Phillips, G Williams; Conversions N Robinson 2; Penalties N Robinson 3

London Irish: M Horak; T Ojo, R Penney, S Geraghty, D Fea'unati (J Storey, 80); R Laidlaw (B Everitt, 63), D Edwards (P Hodgson, 40); M Collins, R Russell, R Skuse, R Strudwick (capt), K Roche, P Gustard (R Thorpe, 47), K Dawson, J Leguizamon.

Cardiff Blues: R Williams (capt); C Czekaj, M Stcherbina, T Davies, C Morgan; N Robinson, M Phillips; J Yapp, G Williams (R Thomas, 74), B Evans (M Jones, 64), D Jones, J Godde (R Sidoli, 74), K Schubert (M Williams, 74), R Sowden-Taylor, A Powell.

Referee: S Davey (Sussex).