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London Irish Prove Too Strong For Young Eagles
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London Irish Prove Too Strong For Young Eagles

London Irish Prove Too Strong For Young Eagles

One of the province’s former players, hooker Jason Harris-Wright, crossed for a try as the youthful Connacht Eagles endured a heavy 34-3 beating at the hands of London Irish.

Visiting the unbeaten English Championship leaders, Connacht Eagles opened the scoring with a well-struck second minute penalty from scrum half Conor McKeon. However, that proved to be their only score of a game in which their defensive lapses were ruthlessly punished.

There was not much between the sides in the opening quarter with McKeon and Greig Tonks, the Scotland-capped out-half, trading penalties but London Irish hit the front thanks to prop Harry Elrington's try from a 19th minute lineout maul that snaked over from five metres out.

McKeon did well to get his arms in under Elrington's body as he went over the line but referee Michael Hudson awarded the try and Tonks added a fine conversion, five metres in from the right touchline.

Barely four minutes later, Leinster Academy product Conor Gilsenan, who had a loan spell at Connacht in 2014, gobbled up an overthrown lineout from Pat O'Toole deep in the visitors' 22 and provided the platform for tighthead Oli Hoskins to crash over just to the right of the posts.

Tonks converted and then former Leinster and Connacht hooker Jason Harris-Wright completed the Exiles' front row hat-trick in the 27th minute. Again, the hosts' lineout maul caused the damage as Harris-Wright burrowed over despite the best efforts of Lewis Stevenson and props Cronin Gleeson and Jason East.

Connacht Eagles had a purple patch as half-time approach, a sweeping back-line move from the westerners sending Irish scrambling back right to their try-line. The Exiles held out to secure turnover ball, although their number 8 Senitiki Nayalo was sin-binned for a high tackle right on the stroke of half-time.

Although they strung together some promising phases, most notably through centres Rory Parata and Mitch Lam, Mossy Lawler's men were unable to profit from Nayalo's departure or Tom Parton's subsequent yellow card for a professional foul at the breakdown.

Indeed, Irish turned their 22-3 interval lead into 29-3 when full-back Parton returned to gather Tonks' cross-field kick and just get past the covering Jordan Conroy close to the right touchline.

The influential Tonks converted the bonus point score for good measure and a flattering fifth try followed for Nick Kennedy's side three minutes from the end. Eagles winger Ed O'Keeffe failed to scoop up a loose ball and Matt Williams' slick offload back inside sent recent England Under-20 call-up Joe Cokanasiga over in the right corner past second row Stevenson – the westerners' best player on the day.

After opening the cross-border competition with successive defeats, Connacht's second string will hope for better results when they face the Ospreys Premiership Select in December's home and away encounters.

Referee: Michael Hudson (England)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Tom Parton; Tom Fowlie, Matt Williams, Ross Neal, Joe Cokanasiga; Greig Tonks, Conor Murphy; Harry Elrington, Jason Harris-Wright, Ollie Hoskins, Will Lloyd, Jerry Sexton, Jack Cooke, Conor Gilsenan (capt), Senitiki Nayalo.

Replacements: Todd Gleave, Richard Palframan, Austin Hay, Luke Frost, Darren Allinson, Jacob Atkins, Ciaran Hearn.

Away Team

Dave Panter; Adam Leavy, Rory Parata, Mitch Lam, Ed O'Keeffe; Luke Carty, Conor McKeon; Cronin Gleeson, Pat O'Toole, Jason East, Lewis Stephenson, Daniel Qualter (capt), Mark Kelly, James Connolly, Steve McVeigh.

Replacements: Shane O'Hehir, Ja Naughton, Sean Masterson, Josh Pim, Stephen Kerins, Jordan Conroy, Joe Murphy.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Harry Elrington, Ollie Hoskins, Jason Harris-Wright, Tom Parton, Joe Cokanasiga; Cons: Greig Tonks 3; Pen: Greig Tonks

Away Team

Pen: Conor McKeon