- London Irish - Tries: Paice, Lewington, Franks, Porecki, Steele. Conversions: Bell 4. Penalties: Bell 2
- Doncaster Knights - Tries: Ram, Challinor, Sproston. Conversion: Flockhart 2. Penalties: Flockhart
London Irish booked their place in the Greene King IPA Championship final as they followed up a dominant first leg victory with a 39-22 win over Doncaster Knights in Reading.
Having already won last week’s encounter at Castle Bar Park 35-3 they almost guaranteed a place in the final before the game started and this win helped them complete a 74-25 aggregate victory to set up a final against Yorkshire Carnegie.
It was much closer than the first leg however, with both sides looking dangerous when they had the ball, but in the end Irish had too much for their visitors and ran in five tries in all.
It was a club stalwart who kicked things off just 10 minutes in for the Exiles, hooker David Paice crashing over after a maul.
Having thrown into a lineout five metres out, Paice then joined his forward pack, and while Doncaster stopped the initial charge, he then broke the last line of defence to dot down.
Doncaster came straight back however, with Jack Ram scoring in similar fashion, powering through a few tackles after a maul had been stopped short.
Tommy Bell had converted Paice’s effort, while Dougie Flockhart was off-target with his conversion, so Irish led 7-5 midway through the half.
Back and forth
Irish grabbed their second try three-minutes later, Alex Lewington the beneficiary of some quick thinking. After Doncaster had been pinned back on their own line and conceded a penalty for holding on, Irish scrum-half Brendan McKibbin chose to tap and go.
He found Aseli Tikoirotuma, who in turn fed Lewington for the easy finish. Bell converted again to stretch the lead to 14-5, but Doncaster hit back with a Flockhart penalty.
Bell responded in kind, but Doncaster were back within two by half-time. Flockhart was denied what was nearly a sensational finish, twisting his way over but knocking on as he reached for the line.
However a minute later it was second row Matt Challinor who peeled off the back of a maul to get over, with Flockhart’s conversion making it 17-15 at the break.
Two-time World Cup winner Ben Franks then got Irish’s third try three minutes into the second half, again from a rolling maul, but director of rugby Nick Kennedy will be hoping for a more clinical effort in the final.
Irish blew a number of chances over the next half-hour, with the final pass often going astray as they struggled at times to make their territorial dominance count.
Still, their rolling maul remained a powerful weapon, and they used it to put Dave Porecki, on for Paice, over for a fourth try.
Doncaster responded with their third try, Joe Sproston crashing over from close range, but still Irish were comfortably clear and they finished it off with a try from Scott Steele to seal the win.
One more step
So a year after dropping down from the Premiership, London Irish are just 160 minutes away from an immediate return.
In their way stand Yorkshire Carnegie, who finished second to them in the regular season, but the Exiles will take confidence that they can follow up victory over one Yorkshire opponent with a win over another in the final.
London Irish: Bell, Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Mulchrone, Cokanasiga, Marshall, McKibbin, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Paice (capt), Franks, De Chaves, Sinclair, Coman, Cowan, Treviranus
Replacements: Porecki, Court, Hoskins, Robson, Gilsenan, Steele, Tonks
Doncaster Knights: Jarvis, Flockhart, Bulumakau, Hayes, Lewis, Humberstone, Heaney, List, Hunter, John, Challinor, Williams, Ram, Hills (capt), Shaw
Replacements: Bergmanas, Nelson, Sproston, Nolan, Carpeneter, Edgerley, Cusack
Referee: Matthew O’Grady