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Olympics2000

Saturday, 19 August, 2000, 18:12 GMT 19:12 UK
Sheasby inspires Irish revenge
Conor O'Shea
Conor O'Shea played in his preferred full-back role
Harlequins 16-22 London Irish

London Irish exacted the sweetest revenge for their pre-season eviction from The Stoop as former Quins star Chris Sheasby inspired them to victory over their former landlords.

Quins terminated their contract with Irish a year early forcing them to seek a new home and Irish made them pay.

But London Irish Director of Rugby Dick Best was quick to play down the victory describing it as a sloppy early-season display and warned supporters not to get carried away.

"Our finishing needs to improve if we are to compete in this division and beat Northampton next week," Best said.


Our finishing needs to improve if we are to compete in this division and beat Northampton next week
  Dick Best

Both sides paraded a plethora of new recruits, with 12 of the 30 players making their competitive club debuts.

It was probably because of this that the game did often lack shape and turn scrappy, with basic errors halting several promising moves.

Irish also suffered in the first half from the move of Jarrod Cunningham into the unfamilar fly-half role. The New Zealander looked uncomfortable and often conspired to mess a number of scoring opportunities.

Consolation

The only consolation for Cunningham was the 17 points he scored from the boot.

Quins, too had to rely on their fly-half, Irishman Paul Burke to keep them in the hunt with the boot.

Burke matched Cunningham kick for kick as the pair amassed nine points apiece before either line was penetrated.

Burke, signed from Cardiff, slotted home a drop goal two minutes into injury time which brought the scores level at the break.

But after short pre-season campaigns both sides looked decidedly rusty and the mistakes began to creep in.

After three minutes of the restart Quins piled over the top and presented Cunningham with a chance to give Irish the lead. He made no mistake.

As the half wore on Quins were forced to defend bravely as Irish kept up a sustained period of pressure.

The pressure eventually told for Quins allowing Richard Kirke to dive over for his 60th minute try. Cunningham added the conversion to make the score 19-9.

The inconsistent form shown by Cunningham in the first period disappeared in the closing stages as he slotted home a penalty in the 77th minute to make the game safe for the travelling side.

An injury time try however from former England centre Will Greenwood saved the red faces of Harlequins as he scampered over a line from close range, setting up a pulsating final few moments.

Irish, however, hung on for a deserved victory despite a late surge from the home side.

Despite being wary of overplaying their victory Best did pay tribute to Welsh pair Steve Williams and new signing Kevin Ellis as he said: "It is tough to adapt to rugby in England when you've spent the majority of your career playing in Wales. The pair had big games today and we look forward to seeing how they will improve during the season."

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