FOLLOWING ON FROM our update on how the Irish players in France got on over the weekend, here’s something similar on our guys in England.
We counted 25 Irishmen in action in the two professional divisions across the water, and here’s how they fared.
On Friday night, Conor O’Shea‘s Harlequins earned an important 27-12 win away to Sale Sharks, meaning they move up to fifth place in the table. Now four points off Bath in the final play-off spot, ‘Quins have three games [home to Leicester, away to Exeter, home to Bath] left in which to ensure they don’t miss out.
Peter Stringer came off the bench in Bath’s lively 18-17 win away to Gloucester on Saturday, playing almost 30 minutes of the clash. It was the 36-year-old’s 26th appearance of the season in all competitions, with his ongoing strong form having recently earned him a one-year contract extension at the club.
Leicester’s 27-15 victory over Wasps saw Niall Morris used as a replacement in the closing eight minutes. The 25-year-oldwas restricted to a bench role as in-form Blaine Scully and Niki Goneva were preferred on the wings, while Matthew Tait was at 15.
Gareth Steenson gave a superb performance as the Exeter Chiefs secured a bonus point 38-33 win away to Worcester. The Irish out-half scored a try, kicked five conversions and added a penalty in a confident display.
The 29-year-old is the third highest points scorer in the Premiership this season, while his haul in Worcester helps the club up to seventh in the league. Outside Steenson was former Ulsterman Ian Whitten, who played the full 80 minutes in the 13 shirt.
Gorey native Eoin Sheriff was a second-half substitute for Saracens during their entertaining 28-24 win over Northampton at Allianz Park on Sunday. The former Leinster lock was making his eight appearance of the season for the Premiership leaders.
London Irish romped to a 40-12 win against Newcastle in the final game of the Premiership weekend, with centres Eamonn Sheridan and Fergus Mulchrone both getting among the six tries.
Tomás O’Leary produced a fine display at scrum-half for the Exiles, while former Leinster prop Jamie Hagan featured off the bench for the closing 30 minutes. Sheridan continues to stand out for London Irish with his powerful running and solid defence.
On the losing side, 21-year-old hooker George McGuigan was a second half substitute. The ex-Ireland U20 international was making his 15th Premiership appearance of the season as he learns the ropes in the top flight.
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Second-placed London Welsh secured an excellent 45-7 win over Jersey on Saturday, with Paddy Ryan starting at tighthead prop. The former Dolphin man – a younger brother of Timmy and Dave, who were both with Munster in the past – recently finished a short-term stint with Viadana.
Ryan played twice in the Amlin Challenge Cup for the Italian side, as well as making three domestic appearances, before moving to London. Saturday was his first start for promotion contenders.
Also in London Welsh’s starting XV was Irish-qualified back row/lock Peter Browne, a 26-year-old who has had spells with Newcastle and Harlequins. Of further interest was openside flanker John Quill, a former Ireland Schools international who is now capped for the US Eagles.
On the losing Jersey side was ex-Connacht back Mark McCrea, who played the full game at inside centre.
Ealing Trailfinders won for just the fourth time this season when they squeezed past Nottingham on a 37-35 scoreline. Ireland U19 cap Sean O’Connell started at No. 8, while Ireland U20 international Conor Carey come on at tighthead prop for the last half an hour.
Matt Jarvis, the Irish-qualified former Connacht player, was at out-half for Nottingham, from where he kicked three penalties and three conversions. The 23-year-old spent two seasons with the western province, having previously represented Wales at U20 level.
18-times capped Ireland international Neil Best was at blindside flanker for London Scottish’s 19-15 success at home to Bedford on Sunday. The 35-year-old has started all but three of the club’s 21 league games, helping them to fifth in the table.
In opposition was former Leinster man Brendan Burke, who lined up at outside centre for the 11th time this season. The 33-year-old’s Bedford side have won just six times in the Championship this season.
Ex-Munster fullback Sean Scanlon and former Leinster wing Michael Keating scored tries Rotherham’s vital 40-20 victory away to Cornish Pirates. Both players have been integral to the club this season, impressing with their attacking prowess in wide channels.
At scrum-half for the Titans was one-time Ireland U18 international Charlie Mulchrone, who is in excellent form. The 24-year-old has been linked with a move to join brother Fergus at London Irish in the Premiership next season.
[EDIT: Mulchrone has, in fact, signed for Worcester Warriors, as pointed out by Rory O'Kane in the comments section below.]
Playing out-half for the Pirates was 28-year-old Kieran Hallet, who was capped for Ireland at U19 and U21 levels. The former Ulster man kicked two penalties and two conversions in the defeat.
At loosehead prop for the Pirates was Shane Cahill, who joined the club this season after previous spells with Rotherham and Plymouth. The former Blackrock man was making his 10th start of the Championship season.
Limerick native Declan Cusack slotted two conversions in Plymouth’s 40-14 loss to Leeds in the final game of the Championship weekend. The out-half, who broke through at Munster, has recently signed a new one-year contract with the club.
Scrum-half Ruairi Cushion, capped for Ireland Clubs, and openside flanker Eoghan Grace, who had spells with Munster and Connacht, were both in the Plymouth team, who remain seventh in the league table.
Did we miss any Irish players who were involved in the Premiership and Championship over the weekend? If so, let us know in the comments section…