Premiership: Harlequins 27-27 London Irish – Late Irish try secures derby draw
|Harlequins: (17) 27|
|Tries: Smith, Brown, Steele Cons: Smith 3 Pens: Smith 2|
|London Irish: (12) 27|
|Tries: Rona, Matu’u, Tuisue, Hoskins Cons: Jackson 2 Pen: Jackson|
Oli Hoskins’ late try salvaged a dramatic draw for London Irish in a tense Premiership derby at Harlequins.
Curtis Rona’s try put Irish in front, before tries from Marcus Smith and Mike Brown helped Quins go 17-7 up.
Motu Matu’u went over just before the break for Irish after a tight first half, but Scott Steele scored against his former club to extend Quins’ lead.
Albert Tuisue powered in for Irish with Archie White sin-binned and Hoskins was forced over from a line-out late on.
Paddy Jackson had a chance to win the game for the visitors with a penalty from the halfway line in stoppage time, but the former Ireland fly-half’s kick was just wide.
Irish take an extra four-try bonus point from the game and are ninth in the table while Quins stay sixth.
The Exiles were back in action for the first time since 20 December having called off their previous two fixtures because of a Covid-19 outbreak.
After a Smith penalty they then took an early lead as Rona burst through from close range to cap a spell of dominance.
Some sharp Harlequins passing created a four on two overlap that saw Smith go over to put Quins back in front, but Irish should have drawn closer when Hoskins dived in on his 100th appearance for the club, but the prop knocked on as he went over the line.
Shortly after former England full-back Brown went in under the posts from a metre out after the hosts had laid siege to the Irish line, but the visitors hit back when Matu’u was mauled over from a close-range line-out.
After Smith and Jackson had swapped penalties Irish held up Wilco Louw as the South African prop tried to go over from close range – Quins forced four penalties in the aftermath as they put their opponent’s scrum under intense pressure and were eventually rewarded when Steele darted over.
But what should have been a routine opportunity to close out the game for Harlequins at 27-15 up changed thanks to a combination of indiscipline and Irish’s vastly experienced replacements including Agustin Creevy, Sean O’Brien, Nick Phipps and debutant Rob Simmons.
When White deliberately knocked and was yellow carded the extra man told as Tuisue burst in. Quins were fortunate not to lose Marcus Smith in the final three minutes when he appeared to put in a challenge when he was offside that disrupted a ruck after an Irish line break.
But from the resulting penalty Jackson kicked to touch and the Irish forwards sent Hoskins in to ensure a century appearance to remember as Jackson held his nerve to get the conversion and the draw.
Harlequins head of rugby Paul Gustard told BBC Radio London:
“We’re our own worst enemy, we put ourselves in a commanding position after the first half.
“We just keep trying to grab defeat from the jaws of victory at the moment, it’s a team a little bit short on confidence as you can imagine.
“We’ve lost two or three, and today wasn’t a loss but it feels like that because 27-15 up with 15 to go, you’ve got to see that game through.”
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney told BBC Radio London:
“The first half we were off that little bit, maybe being away from it for two weeks caught us a little bit.
“But we found our feet there in that last 10 minutes and that’s the one thing you can’t coach.
“We were so disappointed with the matches being called off in the last two weeks because we heard a lot of negative comment about it, but we felt that there was probably other points for us there to get which we managed to get three of them today.
“We scored four and there was probably two we left behind. That’s what we’re creating and when you’re creating that always give you a chance to win matches.”
Harlequins: Brown; Lynagh, Marchant, Lang, Murley; Smith, Steele; Marler, Baldwin, Louw, Symons, Young, Lawday, Evans, Dombrandt (capt).
Replacements: Elia, Els, Kerrod, Tzard, White, Landajo, Tapuai, Morris.
London Irish: Parton; Stokes, Rona, Brophy Clews, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Meehan; Elrington, Matu’u, Hoskins, Mahu, Mafi, Rogerson (capt), Cowan, Tuisue.
Replacements: Creevy, Goodrick-Clarke, Green, Simmons, Donnell O’Brien, Phipps, Meakes.
Referee: Tom Foley.