17 May 13
Harlequins has confirmed an exciting group of pre-season fixtures as it prepares for the start of the 2013-14 season.
It was the second time the TMO had been called into action during the match, with the first in the 34th minute to determine whether Joe Marler had been the victim of a high tackle. The TMO took two minutes to rule that he hadn't.
On a cold, overcast day in Reading, London Irish dominated territory and possession in the first half, not allowing Harlequins to play their preferred free-flowing style of rugby. Unnecessary errors by both teams led to a number of penalties that Botica and Ian Humphreys, the London Irish fly half exchanged.
Botica put the visitors ahead in the fourth minute after a high tackle forced a penalty. Three minutes later Harlequins went 6-0 up after London Irish were penalised for not releasing.
In front of a crowd of 10,247 Harlequins gave away their first penalty within the first ten minutes when they were pulled up for throwing being off their feet in a ruck. Humphreys attempt dropped short of the posts, but within minutes his side was back on the Harlequins try line forcing the visitors to dig deep in defence. Botica's attempted clearance was blocked by Jamie Gibson and Guy Armitage jumped on the loose ball to touch down for the first try of the match. This time Humphreys didn't miss and London Irish took the lead 7-6.
Within minutes though Harlequins were celebrating their first try; an interception from Danny Care who then outran two Irish defenders to score under the posts. Botica made no mistake and kicked his team to a 13-7 lead.
The next minute however Harlequins had given away another penalty for being offside and Humphreys pulled his side back to within three points.
Just before the half hour mark, Care was penalised for not putting into the scrum quickly enough and Humphreys stepped up to take London Irish level at 13-13.
A minute later, Botica attempted a drop goal, but it went wide of the right hand post. Luckily for him, Irish were penalised for offside. This time there was no error and he kicked his side into the lead again 16-13.
Without captain Chris Robshaw, who left the field with a cut above his eye, George Robson, who secured a late call-up to England this weekend, took over the reins. The lock tried to instil some much-needed discipline into his side as they continually got on the wrong side of the referee. But a deliberate knock-on from Nick Easter didn't help and another penalty was conceded, which Humphreys duly converted to bring his side level once again.
Less than four minutes later Mike Brown was sin-binned for the same offence; he deliberately knocked on to avoid the London Irish overlap and was sent to the bin for ten minutes. The resulting penalty was missed by Humphreys and as the teams filed off for half time it was all square at 16-16.
The second half produced two tries for Harlequins as the conditions deteriorated and the ball became progressively more difficult to control. The first try came for Tom Williams off some precise crossfield passing including a beautiful back pass from Man of the Match Matt Hopper. He fed the ball to Botica who passed to Williams who ran in to score in the corner. Botica's conversion from the right touchline bounced fortuitously in off the left post.
With the score at 26-22 to Harlequins after a previous penalty for Botica and a subsequent one for Humphreys, the visitors were again penalised for not releasing. As the renowned London Irish drummers kept the crowd chanting, the home side opted to take the scrum to try and gain an extra five metres to ensure the kick was within Humphreys rein. They gained the ground and the fly half duly brought his team back to within a point.
Two minutes later Harlequins had the chance to extend the lead, but Botica's penalty attempt from 45 metres out dropped short. Further unnecessary errors from the visitors saw themselves concede a further penalty with just nine minutes to go. Easter was penalised at the line-out and Humphreys kicked his side into the lead for the second time.
This was the kick that Harlequins needed. After a lacklustre seventy minutes they started piling on the pressure. They worked their way from inside their half right up the pitch, offloading and driving, utilising both forwards and backs to make the ground. Ugo Monye had the chance to score, but as he neared the right hand corner he passed inside to a London Irish player instead of his own and the chance was lost. The home side then cleverly created enough space for Humphreys to make the clearance off his preferred left foot.
But Harlequins did not give up. They kept up the pressure and drove towards the line with Monye now on the left touchline. Within metres of the line, he passed inside to Casson, making his first senior appearance of the season, who hit the ball forward with his knee and then dived over to score with his body, securing victory by 31-28 in the process.
|London Irish Score Card|
|Harlequins Score Card|