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Two red cards sink London Irish against Stormers

By PA
London Irish v Stormers - Heineken Champions Cup/ PA

London Irish’s feint hopes of progressing in the Heineken Champions Cup vanished due to a pair of red cards as Stormers ran out 28-14 winners at the Gtech Community Stadium.

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Full-back Ben Loader and replacement prop Ciaran Parker were sent off in each half, becoming the fourth and fifth players to receive their marching orders on a weekend of controversy.

Loader received his marching orders in the 18th minute for a dangerous tackle – Irish head coach Les Kiss said he was “flabbergasted” by the decision – and Parker had been on the pitch for just over a minute when his match was ended by an illegal clear-out.

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In addition to the two reds, French referee Ludovic Cayre issued three yellow cards and awarded two penalty tries as the Exiles fell to a third defeat in their three group games.

Predictably enough given their numerical advantage, the impressive Stormers plundered a maximum five-point haul from their visit to London to keep alive their quest to reach the knockout phase.

Irish may dispute Cayre’s decision-making as the sport’s crackdown on dangerous play claimed its latest victims, but they were wobbling even before Loader trudged off.

Early pressure was invited when Rory Jennings’ attacking kick was charged down by Ruhan Nel and the Stormers almost scored on the breakaway but juggling wing Suleiman Hartzenberg could not keep hold of the ball.

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They were more successful in the 14th minute as the Gallagher Premiership’s ninth-placed side conceded a penalty and then free-kick, allowing the Stormers to turn the screw through their set-piece.

Not only did Cayre award a penalty try for illegally bringing down the maul, the culprit Juan Martin Gonzalez was sent to the sin-bin.

Irish’s defence was carved open by the Stormers’ backs and, although Angelo Davids’ try was ruled out because of a forward pass, Manie Libbok had been hit high by Loader and the full-back was sent-off.

Nel was dominating the midfield and it was aggressive defending that forced a turnover, enabling the big centre to pick off Jennings’ pass and gallop home.

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Irish’s one-man deficit was exploited with intelligence and the third try arrived just before the interval when Sacha Mngomezulu grubbered for Hartzenberg to gather and touch down.

Fired up by a chastening first-half, the Exiles’ pack pressed on the visiting line but in the 43rd minute disaster struck for the second time when Parker was shown a red card for a dangerous clear out of Deon Fourie.

Angelo Davids ran in the Stormers’ fourth after Irish were stripped of the ball but the home side were finally off the mark in 50th minute through a line-out drive that saw Cayre award a second penalty try with hooker Steven Kitshoff sent to the sin-bin.

Ben White touched down but the score was ruled out, summing up the English club’s wretched afternoon, but Danilo Fischetti went over with two minutes left to reward the fight shown in the closing stages.

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