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Saturday, 20 April, 2002, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Exiles claim Cup glory
Geoff Appleford dives over for London Irish's first try
Geoff Appleford dives over for London Irish's first try
London Irish 38-7 Northampton
  Photo Gallery: The final in pictures
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London Irish upset the form book in stunning style to claim the Powergen Cup with a thundering victory over Northampton at Twickenham.

Two tries apiece from centre Geoff Appleford and wing Justin Bishop, and a fifth from full-back Michael Horak, destroyed the favourites in spectacular fashion.

A second-half try from England wing Ben Cohen sparked hope of a Saints comeback after they trailed 24-0 at the interval.

But the Exiles, helped by 13 points from the boot of fly-half Barry Everitt, finished the stronger to earn their first piece of domestic silverware.

A Sheasby charge is halted by Saints' Steve Thompson
A Sheasby charge is halted by Saints' Steve Thompson

South African lock Ryan Strudwick - an inspirational captain on the day - deservedly became only the second overseas player to lift English rugby's domestic cup to the delight of the Irish supporters.

Northampton may have had twice as many internationals on the field as their opponents, but the unheralded Exiles were swift to disrupt the Saints' recent fluid rhythm.

Everitt started nervously with a lame drop goal attempt in the second minute as both sides betrayed early nerves.

A charge off the back of a scrum by the inspired Chris Sheasby gave the fly-half his first penalty chance after 10 minutes, but his attempt from just inside his own half fell well short.

Orchestrated

But the setback only served to stir the Irish, and they took the lead in fine style two minutes later, after Bishop was held up yards from the line.

Opting to kick a penalty to touch after Budge Pountney had killed Irish ball, player-coach Brendan Venter and Bishop combined from the ensuing line-out to send Appleford over under the posts.

Everitt dispatched the conversion and added the extras again after 19 minutes as Irish doubled the advantage to 14-0 as the first quarter drew to a close.

A splendid move orchestrated by Venter, and featuring an incisive break from Horak, took them to within a metre of the Saints line.

As Northampton ran out of numbers the full-back had the simple task of picking up and diving over.

Bishop celebrates the fist of his two tries
Bishop celebrates the fist of his two tries

Paul Grayson should have got some points on the board after 27 minutes but badly miscued a simple penalty attempt.

And a reckless charge round the side of a ruck from Scotland prop Mattie Stewart allowed Everitt to extend the lead to 17-0 aftter 32 minutes.

The sense of disbelief in the Saints ranks intensified minutes later as Appleford and Horak, bursting through Peter Jorgensen's weak tackle, combined to release Bishop in the left corner.

Everitt's conversion made it 24-0 to the delight of the green hordes in a capacity 75,000 crowd, but the Irish then showed their defensive resolve as Saints laid siege to their line as the half drew to a close.

Botched

Northampton botched a clear overlap on the right through Beal's wayward pass and their dismay was evident as Matt Dawson and Pountney were seen shoving each other as the teams trooped off.

Tempers flared in the 54th minute when Venter swung a fist at the back of Dawson's head and was fortunate to escape at least a yellow card.

Props Mike Worsley and Robbie Morris were then sent to the sin-bin for a bout of fisticuffs as the match briefly threatened to spin out of control.

Almost immediately, Cohen outjumped Horak to claim Grayson's cross-kick and spark thoughts of a Saints comeback, Grayson's conversion making it 24-7.

Paul Sackey is collared by two Saints defenders
Paul Sackey is collared by two Saints defenders

But Northampton's fate was sealed six minutes from time when Dawson's pass on the Irish 22 was intercepted by Appleford, who sprinted 80 metres for his second try.

Bishop did likewise moments later as Saints fell apart in the face of the rampant Irish ranks.


L Irish: M Horak; P Sackey, G Appleford, B Venter, J Bishop; B Everitt, H Martens; M Worsley, N Drotske, R Hardwick, R Strudwick (capt), S Williams, E Halvey, D Danaher, C Sheasby.
Replacements: D Edwards (for Martens, 56), J Brown, R Hoadley, J Cockle, R Kirke (for Hardwick, 46) G Delaney, S Halford (for Drotske, 46).

Northampton: N Beal; C Moir, P Jorgensen, J Leslie, B Cohen; P Grayson, M Dawson; T Smith, S Thompson, M Stewart, J Ackermann, O Brouzet, A Blowers, B Pountney (capt), G Seely.
Replacements: D Richmond (for Thompson, 51), R Morris (for Stewart, 51), J Phillips, A Rennick, D Malone, M Tucker, J Brooks.

Referee: Steve Lander (Liverpool)

Attendance: 75,000

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Sport's Ian Robertson
"It was a great day at Twickenham"
London Irish director of rugby Conor O'Shea
"The guys defended for their lives"
London Irish flanker Chris Sheasby
"Once in a while it all clicks - it did today"
Northampton director of rugby John Steele
"We were beaten by a much better side"
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