London Irish snatch last gasp win against Saracens in match that had everything


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London Irish secured a pulsating 32-30 win over Saracens with the last kick of the match.

While Sarries looked emotionally out of sorts at points throughout the game, they continually pegged their hosts back when the lead occasionally threatened to reach double figures.

This game had everything to delight the crowd, conversions that hit the post and bounced in, conversions that hit the post and bounced out, a controversial red card, and of course, that last-minute winner for the Irish from the boot of Paddy Jackson.

While the conditions prevented too much wild hurling of the ball around the Brentford Community Stadium, the sides produced everything else that the fans could want, with the eventual right result for the vociferous home support.

There were tries aplenty, mostly off the backs of solid scrums, either rolling over or finding the furthest extremity on the wing.

The excitement began early and stayed late.

Within two minutes, parity was gone when Benhard van Rensburg went over in the left-hand corner after his Irish pack had totally dominated the opening exchanges. From the left touchline, Jackson hit the post and watched in agony as the ball bounced out, however, his side took a 5-0 lead.

Saracens’ start was so slow that it took nine minutes before their first touch in the Irish half. Theo McFarland was first to pouch an ‘up and under’ and finally put some pressure on the Exiles.

They survived a scrum five but only at the expense of a penalty which Alex Lozowski converted to reduce the deficit.

Jackson was soon to convert a far more difficult conversion from the opposite touchline after van Remsburg scored on the opposite wing. The Irish could only hold that nine-point lead for 13 minutes before Saracens finally crossed their line with Ton Woolstencroft touching down.

A half-time score of 12-10 left all guessing how the match would unfold, especially as the wind picked up in the interval to assist the visitors.

The second half was mostly about Adam Coleman as the 30-year-old Tasmanian was sharp at the start and blunt at the end of the second period.

Seconds in, he charged down a clearance kick from Ruben de Haas and judged the bounce perfectly to collect and cross the line.

It was a gift of a try, and at 19-10, London Irish had once more extended their lead to nine. Sarries looked out of sorts and did not seem to be communicating well.

With the wind, however, the pendulum was swinging towards the visitors as slews of pressure and territory resulted in another successful Lozowski penalty goal. Jackson momentarily restored the nine-point gap with a penalty goal of his own but the next Sarries attack finally led to a second breach of the green wall.

Just after the hour-mark, Rotimi Segun flew over in the right-hand corner with his characteristic panache. Sarries had finally turned immense pressure into points and into meaningful ones. To add insult to Irish woes, Lozowski hit the same post as Jackson with his kick, but this time, the ball bounced inside the posts to reduce the Irish’s lead to 22-20, exactly the same gap as half-time.

For the very first time, Saracens looked favourites to win but the Irish would not allow that.

Prop Ollie Hoskins was the architect of the next score with a powerful forward charge but should also get immense credit for ducking smartly when the ball was tossed to him on its way to the quick players.

With a commendable appreciation for his positioning on the field and those who stood to his left, he deftly ducked a pass which continued to the backs where another Ollie, Hassell-Collins, touched down to jubilation around the stadium.

The lead was nine points yet again and Saracens’ communications disarray, which had been boiling under all match, came into sharp focus.

Sarries were sent all over the place with a through kick as Alex Lewington found himself behind his own try line with the ball. Rather than kick it far away, he delivered the operating room of all hospital passes by chucking the hand grenade to Lozowski.

The kicker was able to score a successful penalty goal, and with six minutes to go, he reduced the arrears to 29-23 as Saracens could smell victory.

Minutes later, Adam Coleman was shown red and it was one of three dramatic game-changing moments in the dying embers of the game.

A superb run by Lewington towards the line looked certain to move Saracens to within one point and a conversion to come. From nowhere, Coleman appeared and thumped him to the floor as both players suffered serious injuries but referee Hamish Smales issued a red to the Irish players.

Replay after replay showed the tackle to be brutal but it was never quite clear what law had been broken. Coleman threw his entire body into Lewington’s side but there was no compulsive evidence of an arm around the neck. The home fans went silent as the two players were treated but it was the prolonged booing after as it became clear Coleman was out of the game and the Irish were down to 14 men.

Those boos became louder moments later as Nick Tompkins scored the try which put Saracens within one point. Sadly, Lozowski was also booed as he took the conversion which gave Sarries the lead for the first time.

Down to 14 men, the Irish had just gone behind for the first time with seconds to go. They roared back and forced a penalty which Jackson gleefully converted with the last kick of an outstanding match to claim a 32-30 win for the hosts.

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