Sensational length-of-the-field try not enough for Exiles
MATCH REPORT: London Irish suffered a heartbreaking 18-19 European Challenge Cup quarterfinal defeat at Toulon, despite a breathtaking late length-of-the-field solo try by teenage fullback Henry Arundell.
The 19-year-old, who is qualified to play for England, Scotland or Wales, received the ball just in front of his own try line in the 74th minute at Stade Felix Mayol and slalomed his way almost 100 metres at devastating speed to dive over in the corner.
The incredible score hauled the Exiles back to within a point, but Paddy Jackson’s conversion attempt from the touchline to win it sailed agonisingly wide, meaning Toulon will now face Saracens in the semi-finals next weekend.
It was harsh on Irish who was outstanding for much of the first half, but Toulon gradually imposed themselves, with an opportunist try from flanker and captain Charles Ollivon on the hour mark ultimately making the difference.
Ollivon snuck through the middle of a breakdown for Toulon’s only touchdown, with the score ruled good after a TMO check.
Louis Carbonel’s conversion and a further penalty from the home fly-half, to add to a strike early in the second half, proved to be enough.
Irish will rue a yellow card for flank Juan Martin Gonzalez in the 50th minute for a high tackle on Carbonel.
Jackson missed a straightforward penalty while the visitors were down to 14 men, but Ollivon scored before Gonzalez returned to the fray.
Declan Kidney’s side was deeply impressive for much of the first half after beginning the game with jolting intensity.
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OH MYYYYY 🤩@henry_arundell take a bow 👏👏👏
— EPCR Challenge Cup (@ChallengeCup_) May 8, 2022
Irish’s intent was clear from an early stage when they planted two close-range penalties to touch looking for seven points rather than three.
Off the second of these, in the ninth minute, number eight Albert Tuisue rumbled over for the opening try from a thunderous rolling maul Toulon just could not repel.
It was an uncharacteristically error-strewn start by the French side. They were penalised at the set-piece and fly-half Carbonel and full-back Aymeric Luc were both guilty of kicking to touch on the full to lose their team territory.
There were 23 minutes on the clock before Toulon entered the Irish 22, but they did impose themselves more in the second quarter.
By half-time two Carbonel penalties – the second from the halfway line with the last kick of the period – had reduced the deficit to four points, but only after both sides had received yellow cards in the 35th minute.
Toulon scrum-half Baptiste Serin was booked for a shove on Australian lock Rob Simmons, while Irish hooker Agustin Creevy was also given time in the sin-bin for pulling the hair of Springbok line-out enforcer Eben Etzebeth.
In the end, though, it was Toulon who won the battle on the scoreboard despite Arundell’s late moment of magic.
Pens: Carbonel 4
For London Irish
Tries: Tuisue, Arundell
Pens: Jackson 2
Toulon: 15 Aymeric Luc, 14 Gervais Cordin, 13 Atila Septar, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Gabin Villière, 10 Louis Carbonel, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Charles Ollivon (captain), 6 Cornell Du Preez, 5 Swan Rebbadj, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Anthony Etrillard, 1 Jean Baptiste Gros.
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Beka Gigashvili, 19 Raphael Lakafia, 20 Brian Alainu’uese, 21 Anthony Belleau, 22 Jiuta Naqoli Wainiqolo, 23 Julien Blanc.
London Irish: 15 Tom Parton, 14 Kyle Rowe, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White, 8 Albert Tuisue, 7 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 6 Matt Rogerson (captain), 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Adam Coleman, 3 Marcel Van Der Merwe, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Facundo Gigena.
Replacements: 16 Matt Cornish, 17 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Steve Mafi, 20 Tom Pearson, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 William Joseph, 23 Henry Arundell.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White (Scotland), Hollie Davidson (Scotland)
TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Sources: PA & RugbyPass