London Irish beat Tigers to make winning start at Brentford

Curtis Rona scores London Irish's try against Leicester
Curtis Rona scored London Irish’s first try in their new home
London Irish (13) 22
Try: Rona Con: Jackson Pens: Jackson 5
Leicester (3) 9
Pens: Henry, Diaz Bonilla 2

London Irish enjoyed a winning return to the capital as they got the better of Leicester in their first match at Brentford’s Community Stadium.

Curtis Rona scored the first try at the new ground, the only one of the game, while Paddy Jackson kicked 17 points.

Leicester could not build on an impressive win against Gloucester as their poor away form continued.

A first win of the season for Irish was just their second victory in their past 13 Premiership fixtures.

After 20 years at Reading’s Madejski Stadium, Irish finally made a long-awaited return to playing home matches again in London.

Declan Kidney’s side, who were narrowly beaten at Worcester in the opening round of fixtures, clearly came out motivated to make a perfect start on their new turf.

It took half an hour before Exiles outside centre Rona had the honour of the stadium’s first try when he combined well with fellow Australian Billy Meakes as space opened up inside Leicester’s 22.

Tigers winger Kobus van Wyk had earlier been sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and his afternoon ended before half-time with a calf strain.

Irish took a 13-3 lead into the interval as Jackson landed two penalties, but two further missed attempts by the fly-half kept the Tigers in touch.

Leicester returned reinvigorated for the second half and the introduction of back-row Jordan Taufua and prop Nephi Leatigaga gave the visitors more go-forward ball and dominance in the set-pieces.

London Irish v Leicester at Brentford
Brentford Community Stadium became the 39th venue to host Premiership rugby union

But, despite persistent infringements from the Irish pack, they managed to limit Tigers’ advances to just two Joaquin Diaz Bonilla penalties and Jackson landed two more kicks of his own to make it 19-9 with nine minutes left.

Errors crept into Leicester’s game after that and Irish almost sneaked a second try through replacement scrum-half Nick Phipps.

But Jackson made sure of an opening home win when he slotted over his fifth penalty with the last kick of the game.

Leicester’s winless run away from home in the Premiership now stretches back more than 19 months to a victory at Newcastle in April 2019.

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney told BBC Sport:

“When you look at our recent results, getting a win was most important for us, not just in terms of wanting to start right here.

“It was a massive occasion for us and we wanted to put a bit of icing on the cake of all the hard work that’s gone in to getting us here.

“We will get better the more games we play on this surface. There were still lots of departments that we didn’t improve on from the opening round defeat, particular the penalty count against us in the third quarter.

“Once we can get crowds inside the stadium, it will be a great place to play, but first and foremost we have to make sure the supporters have a team who are performing well that they can get behind. But it’s certainly a fantastic place to play club rugby.”

Leicester head coach Steve Borthwick:

“There were plenty of opportunities there for us to come away with the win.

“Credit to the players for how they fought back in that second half and put London Irish under continued pressure.

“But, crucially for all that possession and all the dominance we started to get at the set piece, we didn’t take those chances and that’s something we will need to assess closely.”

London Irish: Homer; Loader, Rona, Meakes, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Meehan; Dell, Creevy, Kepu, Nott, Mahu, Cooke, Cowan, Rogerson (capt).

Replacements: Matu’u, Elrington, Hoskins, Munga, Mafi, Phipps, Brophy Clews, Parton.

Leicester: Steward; Van Wyk, Taute, Scott, Potter; Henry, Wigglesworth; Bower, T Youngs (capt), Cole, Wells, Green, Liebenberg, Brink, Wiese.

Replacements: Clare, Leatigaga, Heyes, Reffell, Taufua, White, Díaz Bonilla, Porter.

Sin-bin: Van Wyk (15).

Referee: Karl Dickson.


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