Thursday 14 November 2019

Ojo takes the plaudits as London Irish make top-flight return in style

Ojo showed electric pace to score an early contender for try of the season. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Ojo showed electric pace to score an early contender for try of the season. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Paul Bolton

Former England winger Topsy Ojo was the main man as London Irish made a triumphant return to the Aviva Premiership on Saturday with a 39-29 win over Harlequins.

It is nine years since Ojo played his two Tests - he scored two tries on his debut - on England's tour of New Zealand, but at the age of 32 he is keen to keep improving.

Ojo showed electric pace to score an early contender for try of the season, gathering a precision kick from fly-half James Marshall from the Irish 22, linking with centre Fergus Mulchrone, then sprinting over for the 46th Premiership try of his career.

"I haven't set myself a target for this season, I just want to score as many tries as possible," Ojo said.

"I know I have the club record and I just want to extend it and make sure no one else touches it for a very long time."


Having suffered relegation 16 months ago and after spending a season out of the spotlight in the Championship, it was easy to overlook the impressive way that Irish have regrouped under a new coaching team, headed by former England lock Nick Kennedy.

They developed an aggressive and ambitious brand of rugby which earned them the title, and which unsettled Harlequins on Saturday as they swept to victory. While Ojo admitted he didn't find his first season out of the Premiership easy, it got Irish back into the winning habit - which they hope to continue.

"Last season was tough, but we looked at the bigger picture. We said we would enjoy the Championship for what it was and really embrace it," Ojo said.

"We enjoyed going through last season and winning it. For a lot of the guys it was the first major trophy they had won.

"It was a target that we set and now it's about transferring that. We didn't want it to be a flash in the pan. We want to hold on to those good memories and create a lot more through this season."

This was a disappointing start to the season for Harlequins - despite a promising performance from 18-year-old Marcus Smith on his debut - as they undid much of the good work they achieved in scoring four tries by gifting Irish 18 points, while, first Demetri Catrakilis, then Mike Brown, were in the sin-bin in the second half.

Elsewhere, Wasps head coach Dai Young was far from satisfied despite the hosts scoring seven tries to beat Sale 50-35 at the Ricoh Arena.

Scrum-half Dan Robson plundered four tries with Christian Wade, Alex Rieder and Will Rowlands also on the scoresheet. Jimmy Gopperth converted six and added a penalty. Young, however, was frustrated his side gave Sale a glimmer of a chance, saying: "We are our own worst enemy at times as we keep allowing sides back into the game to create a nervous last 10 minutes.

"They got it back to within eight points, which I thought flattered them, but Sale are a hard team to put away. I'm disappointed to have conceded five tries, so there are a lot of things still to work on."

Meanwhile, Pat Lam's reign at Bristol got off to a nervy start as his side were forced to mount a second-half comeback at home against newly-promoted Hartbury. Ian Madigan was at out-half in Bristol's Championship opener, with former Connacht hooker Jason Harris-Wright also starting. Madigan kicked six from six for a 16-point haul in the 26-15 win. (© Telegraph Syndication, London)

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