London Irish announced their return to the Premiership in style to suggest an immediate return to the Championship is not on the cards this season as full-back Tommy Bell’s haul of 24 points secured an impressive 39-29 victory over Harlequins at Twickenham.
The Exiles, back after their one-season stay in the second tier, shot out of the blocks with tries from Topsy Ojo and Bell, before Quins clawed their way back into the affair through Joe Marchant.
The loss of 18-year-old protégé Marcus Smith, heralded as a future England fly-half, destabilised Quins somewhat, and a Ofisa Treviranus try looked to put Irish out of reach. But late scores from England duo Marland Yarde and Danny Care set-up a three-point game with as many minutes on the clock, only for replacement scrum-half Brendan McKibbin to seal the win and, with it, the try-scoring bonus point.
Many have tipped Irish to stay up this season, not least due to the fact that they have a generous smattering of international-calibre players running through the side. Yet while the experience and nous was evidently there, a sheer desire to challenge Quins was also on display, and the reward was two first-half tries for their risk-taking.
The Exiles started the brighter, with two Tommy Bell penalties keeping them ahead after Smith struck one back for Quins, but after a nervy first quarter the game came alive in beautiful fashion.
Topsy Ojo scored his 47th Premiership try (Getty)
The first was a sublime try that wouldn’t have looked amiss in the first game of the day. Having watched Saracens run in nine tries against Northampton, Irish upped the stakes as they brought Twickenham to its feet. Deep in their own 22, fly-half James Marshall turned down the chance to clear his lines and instead chipped over the defence for Topsy Ojo to run on to.
Ojo may be 32 years old these day, but he’s still got those handy afterburners glowing brightly and after catching the ball on the fly he hit the gas. That committed full-back Mike Brown, and the pass inside released centre Fergus Mulchrone to pass halfway. Ojo had continued his run, and the supporting line inside saw him gather the ball and go over to score, with referee Tom Foley awarding the try after a television match official check for a knock-on and offside that weren’t there.
Six minutes later, Irish were in double heaven. The ultra-physical Blair Cowan, one of the aforementioned internationals in the side, had already done his best…