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Beforehand it seemed odd that a Heineken Cup match between two unbeaten sides was not being televised. But after London Irish’s 24-16 win over Perpignan at Majeski Stadium it all makes sense.
This was the sort of ruggedly ragged, shambolic contest that is enjoyable for the committed fan and the live spectator, but looks dreadful on television.
It was a huge result for Irish, taking them five points clear at the top of pool 1. In particular they can travel to France for next week’s return clash with extra equanimity after denying Perpignan a consolotary losing bonus point with the last kick of the match, a penalty by full-back Peter Hewat.
It had been that sort of day for Perpignan. They had to change two-thirds of their back row in the first 20 minutes, had three men sin-binned and conceded a penalty try. Little wonder that at times, particularly the second-half passage that saw them reduced to 13 men and victims of that contentious penalty try award, they visibly felt that the world was against them. To their credit, they at least survived their period of greatest depletion without conceding another score.
They were also the only one of three French teams playing yesterday to score a try – wing Adrien Plante showing genuine soccer skills to chip Cedric Rosalen’s cross-kick ahead precisely before plunging ahead of Irish pursuers to score. That made it 16-8 to Perpignan 10 minutes into the second half.
But then came the penalty try, like Irish’s first-half score by skipper Bob Casey the product of a line-out win close to the Perpignan line followed by a combined drive, and goal-kicking by Hewat that gave the full-back a final tally of 14 points Elsewhere, Biarritz’s conservative percentage game brought them a deserved comeuppance as they contrived to lose 9-6 to Glasgow at Firhill in spite of completely dominating possession while reigning French champions Stade Francais went to the top of pool 3 in spite of failing to score a try, and allowing Cardiff a vital bonus point as they won 12-6 in Paris.