The Good Bits, the Bad Bits and a Couple of Ugly Bits
December 12 2019
I am now living in Spain and since I moved away from England, initially to N.Ireland, my attendance at London Irish games has been sporadic. Then this year a chance presented itself to do my first away trip for 15 years. "France is next door to Spain so a trip there will be dead easy". How wrong I was as the French trade unions had other ideas.
So the first of the bad bits was that a lot of our intended tourists had trains and planes cancelled so were unable to even start the trip. Some were lulled into a false sense of security only to have the plane from Luton cancelled on the evening before the intended travel. The team’s plane, and with it a number of supporters, was also cancelled and the team eventually had to travel via Italy with a long coach journey.
I arrived in Marseille almost 3 hours late on Friday and was unable to catch the last bus to Toulon so I had to book into a hotel in Marseille thanks to arrangements made by Peter Chrystaya-Young. And to finish with the bad bits, Peter and I were booked on a bus from Marseille on Saturday which would have got us to the ground 1 hour before kick-off. To crown the saga the bus broke down on its way into Marseilles and was cancelled. We were eventually able to share a taxi with two French supporters so by the time I sat down we were already 7 points behind.
The good bits were many. Toulon is a lovely city with a magnificent stadium right in the middle, a stone’s throw from the harbour. The home supporters were very friendly and welcoming. We had invitations from two supporters’ clubs for Friday night and Saturday lunchtime. Those who were lucky enough to there on the Friday were able to enjoy a free buffet at Le Navigateur bar and drinks flowed in that and other establishments before and after the game. Merci a les Toulonais.
It was a changed Irish side that went into this game which caused supporters to puzzle over the club’s intent. As I said Toulon went into the lead two minutes into the game with a converted try. Irish then then dominated the next 15 minutes of play but were unable to capitalise on their possession. An easy penalty was given away which allowed the home side to increase the lead to ten points. Debutant Steve Mafi powered over the home line and Stephen Myler added to conversion to reduce the lead to 3 points and was again game on. Twenty-eight minutes into the game the Exiles were down to 14 men as prop Pat Cilliers was adjudged to have brought down a maul and was sent to the sin bin.
The home side were able to capitalise on his absence when they were awarded a penalty 5 metres from the Irish line. They elected to have a scrum and scrum half Baptiste Serin ran down the blind side to score in the corner. Myler added a penalty for the visitors so the half-time score was 15-10 to Toulon.
Fifteen minutes into the second half Toulon added another try when their winger beat the defenders to a kick ahead. Two minutes later they added their fourth try exploiting poor Irish defence. The conversion was successful to leave Irish on the ropes 10-27 down.
Then the couple of Ugly Bits occurred. First Toulon player Theo Dachery and two minutes later the Exile’s TJ Loane were shown red cards for high tackles. Toulon punished the last offence by converting the resultant penalty.
With four minutes to go Tom Fowlie, who in my opinion was the Irish Man of the Match, added a try which Myler converted. But the 13-point deficit seemed too much to overcome and the French added and converted their fifth try in injury time to finish as 37-17 winners.
The score possibly flatters the home side as 3 of their tries could have been put down to defensive errors by the Exiles. But on 6 points in the table, 8 below Toulon and 3 below Scarlets it looks as if their European adventure is going nowhere, just like some of their supporters on this occasion, unfortunately.
15 Jacob Atkins (Cokanasiga, 12), 14 Tom Fowlie, 13 Bryce Campbell, 12 Theo Brophy Clews, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Scott Steele (Meehan, 65), 1 Harry Elrington (Allan Dell, 51), 2 Motu Matu’u (McMillan, 69), 3 Pat Cilliers (Chawatama, 54), 4 Barney Maddison, 5 Franco van der Merwe © (Nott, 66), 6 Steve Mafi (Donnell, 72), 7 Blair Cowan (TJ Ioane, 51), 8 Matt Rogerson (Chawatama, 30)
16 Ross McMillan, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 George Nott, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 TJ Ioane , 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Phil Cokanasiga
15 Bryce Heem, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Julien Heriteau, 12 Anthony Belleau, 11 Masivesi Dakuwaqa, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Baptiste Serin, 1 Florian Fresia, 2 Christopher Tolofua, 3 Beka Gigashvili, 4 Swan Rebbadj, 5 Brian Alainu’use, 6 Charles Ollivon (c), 7 Fernando Isa, 8 Sergio Parisse
Replacements: 16 Bastien Soury, 17 Bruce Devaux, 18 Emerick Setiano, 19 Julien Ory, 20 Theo Dachary, 21 Gervais Cordin, 22 Yoan Cottin, 23 Eden Etzebeth
Referee: Ben Whitehousepqs: qs:
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