London Irish 22 Leicester 9
London Irish made the ideal start to life in their new home by bagging their first win of the season.
A Curtis Rona try and 17 points from the boot of Paddy Jackson was just enough to secure the four points on a day when the hosts were desperate to launch a new era in the appropriate manner.
Brentford Community Stadium is not quite Sunbury, but it will surely feel a better fit than Reading’s Madejski Stadium, which left the Exiles even more exiled from their spiritual moorings in south-west London. The PA played Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town at the end. A sound choice.
Much like landlords Brentford FC, London Irish were denied the grand entry they would have liked in front of their loyal followers, but with the prospect of fans being admitted soon, this still felt like an upbeat occasion under the lights of Kew Bridge’s sparkling new edifice.
The Irish were helped that a few first-night nerves were settled early on by the idiocy of Tigers wing Kobus van Wyk, who was yellow carded for deliberately punching a bouncing ball into touch with the game in its infancy.
And Rona – featuring heavily in the opening stages with his powerful surges – had the honour of scoring the first try at the new home after 30 minutes, after being released by midfield partner Billy Meakes.
In the short term, at least, the Exiles will be hoping a move back to West London helps them rediscover their mojo.
Last season was something of a write-off for Declan Kidney’s men – certainly the resumption after Lockdown1 was, when they could muster just one win during their temporary residence at the Stoop.
Their opponents were also one of last season’s big under-achievers and their previously mighty reputation took a dent as they stumbled to the bottom of the Premiership. Had it not been for Saracens’ point deduction, they would have dropped.
Both are need of something better this time around.
The first target will be to continue the familiarisation process next Sunday, when Sale Sharks will be the second visitors to these pastures.
Jackson landed two penalties to cancel out one from near half way by Zack Henry, before Rona gave the Irish their first try. Jackson converted, and all looked decidedly rosy at 13-3, going in at the break, even if the Exiles kicker missed two pots at goal in the first 40 minutes.
The Irish managed a turnover to repel a menacing Tigers attack of several phases at the start of the second half, but had their lead cut to four after two successful penalty attempts from Joaquin Diaz Bonilla. That was as close as Tigers came to spoiling the party.
In a game of few opportunities, the small margins mattered and a Jackson penalty restored a seven-point buffer, before a driving maul from a lineout was illegally halted by the Tigers, allowing Jackson to restore a 10-point gap, to all-but secure victory.
Tails up, the Irish then forced a 5m scrum after working en masse to drag Bonilla over his own line, and although nothing came of it, it felt like a statement play that said: We have arrived.
Jackson added a bit more gloss with a penalty in the final moments.
London Irish: Homer, Loader, Rona, Meakes, Hassell-Collins, Jackson, Meehan, Dell, Creevy, Kepu, NNott, Mahu, Cooke, Cowan, Rogerson. Replacements: Matu’u, Elrington, Hoskins, Munga, Mafi, Phipps, Brophy Clews, Parton