London Irish 34 Brive 13By Matthew Sadler
December 19, 2009
Delon Armitage made an instant impact on his return from injury as Irish stayed level on points with Pool 6 leaders and defending Heineken Cup champions Leinster.
Armitage, who had been out since September because of a dislocated shoulder, came of the bench for the final 14 minutes and broke through late on to clinch a bonus-point win.
Tom Homer, Seilala Mapusua and Elvis Seveali’i also crossed for Exiles who were given a much sterner test by Brive this time around after cruising to victory in France last week.
It was Homer who opened the scoring in the 10th minute when Exiles spread the ball out to the right and Richard Thorpe found the 19-year-old.
Homer still had a lot of work to do, but the speed merchant burst past one Brive player before cutting inside Nicolas Jeanjean and finishing in the corner.
Malone slotted over the kick, but Brive hit back through a Luciano Orquera penalty.
The Brive fly-half further reduced the deficit three minutes later when he slotted home another penalty from the halfway line.
Malone responded with three points of his own before much of the action was restricted to kicking for territory.
Irish were by no means having an easy time, but Malone stretched their lead to seven points when he kicked a long-range penalty.
Brive’s task was made even harder with seven minutes of the half to go when referee James Jones harshly yellow carded Retif Uys.
Exiles immediately took advantage of their numerical superiority when Mapusua produced a moment of individual magic.
The No.8 received the ball just inside Brive’s 22 before sidestepping past two and finishing under the posts.
It was a superb finish from the Samoan, but was made all too easy by poor defending from the visitors.
Once again Malone made no mistake and converted.
Irish finished the half much the stronger with Brive failing to exert pressure on the home side’s defence.
The French side looked devoid of ideas and Orquera missed with a drop goal attempt when they were in a promising position.
Homer threatened again after the interval with a couple of half breaks, but Brive’s defence held firm and kept him out.
Ref Jones was in the thick of the action again when he sin-binned Patrick Barnard in the 50th minute for turning the scrum.
With little more than a minute of Barnard’s punishment left Irish put the game beyond any doubt when man-of-the-match Seveali’i broke clear and finished.
Malone added the extra two points and that was to be the fly-half’s last real involvement as he was soon replaced by Ryan Lamb.
Irish were breaking through the first line of Brive’s defence at ease, but were guilty of knocking on when in dangerous positions.
Armitage replaced John Rudd and his arrival soon saw Brive reduced to 14 men for the fourth time after England international Jamie Noon had also earlier seen yellow.
Armitage kicked ahead only to be obstructed by Scott Spedding who was subsequently sin-binned.
Exiles came close to adding a fourth try with five minutes to go when Peter Hewat broke through and found Stowers, but the 30-year-old did not have the pace and was caught five metres from the line.
Guillaume Namy scored a late consolation try for the visitors, which was well converted by Orquera from the touchline, but Armitage had read the script and broke through in the final minute to score Irish’s fourth try and clinch the bonus-point win.
Lamb added the extra two points with the final kick of the match as Exiles ran out 34-13 winners.
London Irish: Hewat; Homer, Seveali'i, Mapusua, Rudd; Malone, Lalanne; Dermody, Paice, Ion, Kennedy, Casey (captain), Thorpe, S Armitage, Hala'Ufia.
Replacements: Coetzee, Murphy, Rautenbach, Roche, Stowers, D Armitage, Lennard, Lamb.
Brive: Jeanjean; Cooke, Noon, Mackay, Namy; Orquera, Pejoine; Kinchagishvili, Thompson, Zimmermann, Uys, Browne, Forgues, Azoulai (captain), Domingo.
Replacements: Bonrepaux, Henn, Dubarry, Claassen, Perry, Agulla, Spedding, Barnard.
Referee: James Jones