A League of their own - 1991 to 1995

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A League of their own - 1991 to 1995

by dom_pedro on Sat Oct 15, 2005 9:48 pm

Second article on Irish by Steve Smith

1991 - 1995

Season five, 91/92, established what was to become a familiar pattern for Irish in the top-flight - regular early-season losses plunging us deep into relegation trouble only to be salvaged by improved results as bleak mid-winter recedes. Talented international No8 Brian Robinson helped the team to three wins (notably over Wasps and Bristol) and three draws out of 12 games to finish the season clear of the drop. The cup, not a happy place for us since our memorable appearance at the Twickenham Final in 1980, provided the season's low-point with a humiliating third round defeat to junior club Thurrock. A good nomination, perhaps, for all-time low-point/humiliation. But at least it was a prelude for good things to come and Irish's best season yet, 92/93.

With Staples as skipper, fine victories over Northampton, Bristol and Saracens contributed to a 6/6 win-loss record and 7th place out of 13 teams - incidentally, one place higher than Quins. Winger Michael Corcoran scored an avalanche of points with his place-kicking and fly-half Paul Burke dropped many a vital goal.

Sadly, the same formula didn't work nearly as well in season 93/94. Whether it was the loud background noise of committee upheavals or simple embarrassment at wearing a bizarre American Football-style jersey, the players could not match their counterparts at the other clubs, despite the integration of newcomers like centre Rob Henderson and flanker Rory Jenkins. The truth was playing standards had sharply increased because of the reduction of the first division to ten teams, playing on a home and away basis for the first time.

We couldn't cope and with just four wins out of 18, slumped to a ninth-place finish and relegation, signalling the end of the coaching tenure at London Irish of ex-New Zealand and Maori hooker Hika Reid. The drop also led to a clear-out among the players, Geoghegan to Bath and Staples and Jenkins to Quins. But any fears of a free-fall down the leagues were arrested by a successful transitional season in 94/95, nine wins and nine losses leading to fifth place in division two. The exodus of talent gave others their opportunity - a 20-year-old Justin Bishop scored his first league try at London Scottish in January. Corcoran's kicking and try hauls from Henderson and winger Ray Hennessy steadied the ship. New coach Clive Woodward, preaching a rather flakey combination of US-style management motivational theory and fancy Aussie flat backline moves, inspired and baffled the players in equal measure.
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