Having seen his team overturn a 15-10 deficit at halftime into a huge win against Bristol Bears in spectacular fashion last Friday night, London Irish assistant coach Brad Davis sat down the media this week ahead of Saturday’s London Derby clash with Saracens and there were two words that came up regularly but could not be more fitting, not only for Saturday’s game but for the Exiles season as a whole.
Resilience and fight were two words that Davis used to describe how the team turned the before mentioned 15-10 deficit into a 49-32 win at Ashton Gate on Friday night, adding that it could have been more at halftime if not for the resilience and fight of the team in the first 40 minutes. Davis said:
“At 15-10 down at halftime, I think that score could have been 22-10 down quite easily but we showed enough resilience and fight in that first 40 to keep it within a score.”
Thanks to the resilience and fight that Davis mentioned, it was exactly that which provided London Irish an opportunity to get themselves into a position where they could grab themselves something from the game and not only did they do that, they did it with complete dominance outscoring the Bears 39-17 in the second 40 which earning themselves a well-deserved bonus-point win.
A major part of why they were able to turn the game on its head was largely down to forced turnovers, playing in the right areas and a red card for Bristol’s Ratu Naulago. Perhaps the best part of it all though was the team hitting a purple patch which saw them rack up four tries in 15 minutes thanks to Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Nick Phipps, Ben Loader and Paddy Jackson.
There can be no doubt it was a second-half performance to behold for all around the club and Davis added while it was exciting to what, it came as no surprise for the team. He said:
”I thought we controlled the next 35 minutes of the footy game brilliantly, we put them under pressure, we got a lot of turnovers, we played in the right areas and then we had that patch where we strung together four tries in 15 minutes and took the game beyond their reach.”
“It was exciting to watch but it wasn’t a massive surprise to us as a team because it didn’t happen by accident as we found a real fluency in that period of time, as all teams do and they convert and we managed to convert all our opportunities into points.”
When it comes to opportunities and especially against the so say big teams, the Exiles are no strangers to stepping it up a level. This season so far, there have been highlight results such as wins over Harlequins and Exeter as well as draws against the like of Gloucester, Sale and of course, Saturday’s opponents – Saracens, all of whom are chasing a top-four finish this season.
Talking of chasing a top-four finish, it’s those results themselves as to why Irish find themselves well within the chasing pack aiming to make six fit into one, with just four points separating Sale in ninth and Quins in fourth. As for the Exiles, they are just three points off fourth spot heading into the weekend’s game but Davis says that “the real important thing is not to look at the table but look at the performances and keep staying in contests” – adding:
”I think what we’ve done quite well this year and it’s something we have to keep staying focused on is that we have managed to take points even when we have been losing games.”
Resilience and fight will be needed but London Irish are used to that
If it’s performances that we should be looking at then ahead of Saturday’s showdown with Sarries, look no further than the reverse fixture at the StoneX Stadium back in Round 8 where Kyle Rowe’s third try of the afternoon capped off what was one of the best second-half performances seen in the Gallagher Premiership as the Exiles rallied back from as many as 26 points down with just 14 men for three-quarters of the game!!
When asked if the team could use anything from that performance as well as the 29-20 win at home in the Premiership Cup, Davis told me that he doesn’t think either will shape how they start the game and again used those two words we have heard often throughout to describe what they did show in each fixture. Davis said:
“I don’t think it matters at all in terms of how we’re going to start the game, I think what it does show in those games is that we’ve always been in a position where we are in the contest and we’ve shown resilience, we’ve shown fight and we’ve shown that if we can get things right, we can pose a few questions that they may or may not have the ability to answer.”
There can be no doubts that the Exiles have the ability to ask questions of Saracens and if the last two games, as well as the performance against the Bears, are anything to go by then there’s definitely the potential of further points being added to the London Irish name in that table in which we are not looking at (wink wink).. For now.
In other news, it was announced this week that the Exiles have signed South African hooker Alandré van Rooyen with immediate effect for the remainder of the 2021/22 season. However, the former Southern Kings and Griquas player will not be available for selection for at least 2-3 weeks as confirmed by Davis as he is being integrated into the team having only just joined up with the squad on Tuesday.
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