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Wallaby sees red and Chris Ashton scores as Leicester beat London Irish

By PA
Curtis Rona of London Irish walks to the bench, after being sent off during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Leicester Tigers and London Irish at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium on March 12, 2022 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

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Curtis Rona’s first-half red card derailed London Irish’s bid to become the first team in 12 matches to defeat Leicester at Mattioli Woods Welford Road as they were beaten 47-28.

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Steve Borthwick’s table-toppers were just two points ahead when the Australian’s shoulder connected with Jasper Wiese’s head, resulting in his dismissal shortly before the half-hour mark.

With the man advantage, Tigers cashed in as Harry Potter crossed and a penalty try award secured a 10th Premiership try-scoring bonus point of the season.

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Paddy Jackson’s hat-trick of penalties kept the Exiles in touch before Henry Arundell’s try early in the second half, while his side was temporarily down to 13 men, cut the deficit to five points.

But Tommy Reffell’s neat finish, Nemani Nadolo’s second of the encounter and Chris Ashton’s first Tigers score wrapped up an emphatic victory before Matt Cornish grabbed a late consolation try.

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It was a late call-up to the starting line-up that provided the spark for London Irish to open the scoring after just two minutes as England U20s full-back Arundell broke from deep. Agustin Creevy’s reaching offload gave Bernhard Janse van Rensburg a walk-in.

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The response was swift as Tigers scored twice in the space of 10 minutes, starting with Freddie Burns locating Nadolo on a straight line to stroll in for his seventh try of the season. Burns’ conversion levelled the scores before Matt Scott reeled in an ambitious Janse van Rensburg pass for an interception score.

Arundell’s sprightly break from deep should have led to a score but his pass to an unmarked Ollie Hassell-Collins was poor. Jackson did gain some consolation by landing a penalty.

The visitors were then left a man short as Wiese’s burst was thwarted by the shuddering combination of Albert Tuisue and Rona – the latter’s upright position into the collision left referee Karl Dickson with no option but to award a red card.

The imbalance immediately told as Potter’s looping pass saw Nadolo power through and offload back to his wing partner for the Tigers’ third try, before the bonus point was registered as a powerful rolling maul was stopped illegally resulting in a penalty try.

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Reduced to 13 men following Adam Coleman’s subsequent sin-binning, Irish nevertheless scored 10 points as Jackson landed a third successful penalty on the stroke of half-time before Arundell scorched home in the opening passage of the second half.

Normal order was resumed as Burns’ chip was expertly dotted down by Reffell before Matias Moroni fed Nadolo to power over. Ashton pulled in Burns’ looping pass to draw level with Mark Cueto in second on the all-time Premiership tryscorers’ list with 90, and two behind leader Tom Varndell.

Cornish’s late effort gave hope of a point for the away side but Leicester held firm despite losing Nadolo to a late yellow card for a botched interception attempt.

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