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An unstoppable Irish comeback seals first Prem double over Exeter

By PA
(Photo by PA)

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London Irish fought back to secure their first-ever Gallagher Premiership double over Exeter by holding out for a narrow 18-14 win at the Brentford Community Stadium. Tries from Matt Cornish and James Stokes ensured the hosts pulled off an excellent comeback against Rob Baxter’s side, who at one stage led 14-0.

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The Chiefs, who dropped their Native American branding during the week, made the better start by scoring the first try after just five minutes. Following multiple phases in the Irish 22 after fly-half Joe Simmonds’ original break, scrum-half Jack Maunder popped to flying wing Olly Woodburn to crash over.

Exeter skipper Simmonds then improved it for an early 7-0 advantage over Irish before adding to that further with their second try in the opening 17 minutes. Simmonds found the corner with a penalty before their pressure was rewarded with another infringement. Tighthead prop Patrick Schickerling took a quick-tap penalty and burrowed over with Simmonds on target for 14-0.

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Back came the hosts, though, with hooker Cornish going over after 24 minutes from a maul but Paddy Jackson missed the extras so they trailed 14-5. However, the 30-year-old was on target eight minutes later with a pinpoint penalty and he followed it up with another to cut the gap to just three points.

Right on half-time, lightning-quick hands from Irish between Jackson and right wing Ben Loader put full-back James Stokes in at the corner. Jackson converted to give the home side an 18-14 lead at the break.

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Momentum can be a huge thing in sport and the home side took everything they had gained at the end of the first half into the second period. On the hour mark, the Chiefs looked to be crumbling upfront when they were twice penalised in an area they have built their foundations upon in the last few seasons.

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With five minutes left, the home side won a penalty and from over 40 metres out, Jackson edged it just wide. The fly-half then put another penalty shot from halfway into the corner before multiple pick and goes set up another scoring chance.

Jackson was handed the kicking tee with the clock in the red after his pack had done the hard yards but he put it wide. In the end, it did not matter, with the game already won for Irish in front of vociferous support in southwest London.

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