LKR spent the afternoon on this!! but not got her own log in!
London Irish 29 – Ulster 13
This match report is done with the benefit of watching the match again on TV. Without this ‘cheat’ it would have been a list of scorers and some overall feelings – some pessimism, increasing hope, disappointment, hope returning and elation.
We arrive to a Christmassy feeling Madstad, waiting outside the shop with Son 1 and Son 2, whilst spouse was in the shop buying items which I can’t mention in case the sons read this, except to say we now have 5 LI calendars!!
We got into the stadium to see the warm up and get a couple more autographs. Whilst the LI team looked great, the Ulster starting line up had only one non-international player. I must admit to some pessimism, thinking perhaps that Son 2’s thrashing of Ulster by LI on the computer this morning might be the only LI win of the day. The atmosphere was great too with 14 500+ supporters.
The match got underway with pressure on by LI from the first couple of minutes. It was not until the 11th minute that Ulster really got down our end. We conceded a penalty in the 12th minute and David Humphreys successfully kicked it from 45-50m out. Score 0-3. However, we got back into it straight away and got a penalty about 50m out in front of the posts. It looked like Delon wanted to go for the posts himself but we let Shane go for touch instead! It was a few minutes later that a pass from Catt to Mapusua to JML led to our first try, which Shane successfully converted. Score 7-3 (and we were never behind again). It was only about three minutes later that Shane chipped the ball ahead which Catt kicked, collected and scored with. Another successful conversion by Shane took the score to 14-3. We continued to apply the pressure and JML would have scored again if only the 6 yard box line (not well painted out) had been the try line. He did smile when he realised his mistake which was good –can you blame him though, I’m sure one line looks like another when you are 6 inches above them with a crowd of players around you. At 32 minutes there was a penalty for Ulster which Humphreys took successfully. Score 14-6. Five minutes later there was a break by Ulster. Delon stopped it but unfortunately used a high tackle to do so and was duly sin-binned. Humphreys missed the resulting penalty (the Ulster supporters were singing too loudly perhaps!). Ulster were now starting to apply some pressure near our try line and Bishop ended up being sin-binned only a few minutes later for tripping up a player. He certainly looked like he thought it was an accident but the yellow card was shown nonetheless. Within two minutes, the numerical advantage paid off and Steinmetz scored and Humphreys added the conversion. Score at half time whistle was 14-13. There were a few tears near me and I certainly felt like we could well have thrown the game away but we hadn’t reckoned on the determination and skill of LI.
LI began the second half well despite the numerical disadvantage and showed some great defence. Seven minutes later Delon came back (it was good to see him tackle well soon after that) and Coetzee and Collins came on for Russell and Hatley. Ulster were awarded a penalty not long after but Humphreys could not oblige and then Bishop returned. We were back on equal terms numerically although determination wise we hadn’t seemed lacking anyway. The ball seemed to move up and down the pitch more and we got to see Mapusua practise his drop goal technique (after play had been stopped for a knock on). At this point Murphy came on for Roche, with JML moving to number 6. We made a good break and were very close a couple of times and even got over the try line but the referee went for a 5m scrum without consulting the TMO (maybe he was worried about using the TMO after the try controversy in the England v. NZ game where his TMO said a try was not scored when it seemed that it had been). At 60 minutes, it was great to see the return of Faan (coming on for Tonga). We were still close to the try line and in the end Shane went through under the posts himself. He then converted his own try. Score 21-13 and chants from next to me of ‘one more for the bonus point’. There was then a period of pressure from Ulster, for some of which JML was on the ground receiving treatment but it seems LI don’t need 15 men and defended successfully. At 73 minutes Barry and Tiesi came on for Shane and Catt, and a few minutes later Hudson came on for Kennedy. At 78 minutes, we were awarded a penalty. There seemed to be some debate between Bob, Barry and the ref about whether the kick should be for the posts or for touch. The first call of the posts was the one the ref went with and Barry duly got the points. Score 24-13. As the match went into injury time, Ulster were down our end. Not having a countdown clock reminded me of the ECC semi-final at Newcastle but fortunately for the number of grey hairs, the scoreline was not as close. We kept Ulster out and then counter attacked, with Tagicakibau scoring the fourth try. Barry didn’t get the conversion but it didn’t matter, the final whistle went and LI had won 29-13. Now was the feeling of elation and it was added to by seeing just how happy the team were (and rightly so).
We stayed to watch the last players leave the field. I was hoping the staff at work had Sky so they saw the brilliant performance (there are some LI converts since Philippos came to do rugby coaching at our school). For us, it was another match we will keep to watch again and again, like Wasps last season. Well done to the whole team and thank you for a great afternoon.