A MUD-DRENCHED London Irish were beaten by Gloucester on Saturday to send them back to the foot of the table in their first Aviva Premiership match of 2016.
Head coach Tom Coventry picked an unchanged team from the side that beat Northampton Saints on Boxing Day, which had forced them off rock-bottom temporarily.
In a wet, muddy affair in front of a capacity crowd at the Kingsholm Stadium, it proved to be a game of two halves. The Exiles went into half-time 6-14 up thanks to tries from Ciaran Hearn and Alex Lewington.
But a second-half rally from the hosts with tries from Matt Kvesic and Billy Burns, combined with the boot of James Hook, saw them fight back to win 27-14.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Coventry in the post-match press conference. “I thought we were ill-disciplined in the second spell [but] it’s difficult to play in those sorts of conditions.”
Gloucester claimed the first points of the match after just three minutes, James Hook converting a penalty shot at goal after the Exiles had been penalised at the maul.
Irish struck back minutes later after winning a five-metre lineout, from which Ciaran Hearn found himself the space to dance in under the posts and Chris Noakes added the simple conversion to make it 3-7.
A second Hook penalty closed the gap to just one point before the game descended into a scrappy battle between the 22s, with both sides playing for field position.
On the 32nd minute however the game burst into life again as Chris Noakes struck a perfectly weighted cross-field kick, with Alex Lewington beating his opposite man in the air to dot it down with Noakes converting to make it 6-14 at the break.
Hook reduced the deficit early on in the second half with another penalty. Then after an intense period of defending for Irish – holding Gloucester out twice and Lewington sent to the bin – Hook converted another penalty to make it 12-14.
A third second-half penalty from Hook took the lead for the hosts with 20 minutes to go and the closing ten minutes saw a late flourish from Gloucester. First Matt Kvesic crashed over from the base of a maul and minutes later Billy Burns scored off the back of a well-worked move to take the score to 27-14.
The final plays saw Irish searching for a try to salvage a losing bonus point, but it wasn’t to be as Gloucester forced the turnover to see out that final score.
GAME AT A GLANCE
London Irish scorers: Try: Hearn (7), Lewington (32) Conversion: Noakes (7, 32)
Gloucester scorers: Penalty: Hook (3, 12, 43, 50, 59) Try: Kvesic (68), Burns (71) Conversion: Hook (67)
15. Sean Maitland; 14. Alex Lewington; 13. Ciaran Hearn; 12. Johnny Williams; 11. Aseli Tikoirotuma; 10. Chris Noakes (Geraghty, 65); 9. Brendan McKibbin (Steele, 59); 1. Tom Court (Smallbone, 62); 2. David Paice (Ellis, 67); 3. Ben Franks (Aulika, 67); 4. Matt Symons (Captain); 5. Will Lloyd; 6. Luke Narraway (Sinclair, 57); 7. Blair Cowan (Trayfoot, 50); 8. Ofisa Treviranus
Replacements: 16. Gerard Ellis; 17. Tom Smallbone; 18. Halani Aulika; 19. Jebb Sinclair; 20. Joe Trayfoot; 21. Scott Steele; 22. Shane Geraghty; 23. Topsy Ojo
15. Rob Cook; 14. Charlie Sharples (Burns, 70), 13. Bill Meakes (Atkinson, 55), 12. Billy Twelvetrees (capt), 11. Henry Purdy; 10. James Hook, 9. Willi Heinz (Laidlaw, 55); 1. Nick Wood (McAllistair, 47), 2. Richard Hibbard (Lindsay, 57), 3. Nicky Thomas (Murphy, 57); 4. Tom Savage, 5. Jeremy Thrush; 6. Ross Moriarty (morgan, 47), 7. Matt Kvesic, 8. Sione Kalamafoni (Rowan, 65)
Replacements: 16. Tom Lindsay, 17. Dan Murphy, 18. Paddy McAllister, 19. Ben Morgan, 20. Jacob Rowan, 21. Greig Laidlaw, 22. Billy Burns, 23. Mark Atkinson