Rugby: London Irish move into second in Zurich Premiership

London Irish 42 Leeds 14

London Irish 42 Leeds 14

Barry Everitt produced another match-winning performance as London Irish moved into second in the Premiership behind early pace-setters Sale.

Fly-half Everitt, who booted 22 points to shoot down Harlequins last weekend, kicked another 27 at the Madejski Stadium after Irish fought back from a 14-9 interval deficit.

Premiership new boys Leeds, shock conquerors of Bath seven days ago, looked like continuing their fairytale start to the season following first half tries by flanker Cameron Mather and centre Shaun Woof.

But Everitt’s remarkable strike rate in the opening hour - seven penalties and a conversion of Chris Sheasby’s 56th minute touchdown - left Leeds reeling.

Amazingly, the 25-year-old has not missed a kick so far this term, slotting 18 out of 18.

Everitt also converted Irish player-coach Brendan Venter’s try 11 minutes from time, ramming home the Exile’s superiority during a one-sided second period when they scored 33 unanswered points.

Leeds played their part in an entertaining encounter, with Tykes’ former London-Irish fly-half Stephen Bachop displaying some neat touches, but he compounded a miserable 40 minutes when he limped off near full time.

Substitute flanker Richard Bates added another Irish try as Leeds tired, Everitt inevitably landing the conversion, but they were denied a bonus point despite frantically going flat out for an elusive fourth touchdown.

Everitt found his range inside the opening 20 minutes, punishing Leeds indiscipline through two penalty strikes, and the visitors looked in trouble when he completed a hat-trick of goals.

Tykes number eight Isaac Feaunati, another Irish old boy, was sin-binned by Scottish referee Rob Dickson for killing the ball.

It looked as if the floodgates would open but, having been reduced to 14 men, Leeds somehow stepped up a gear and Mather pounced after lock Chris Murphy had been driven relentlessly forward from a line-out.

Full-back Jon Benson converted, and after Feaunati returned to the fray, Leeds stunned Irish with a second score right on half time.

Bachop’s exquisite long pass split open the Irish defence, handing Woof a simple task of sprinting through the gap. Another Benson conversion gave Leeds a five-point interval advantage, giving Irish plenty to think about.

But three more Everitt penalties by the 54th minute as Leeds continued to infringe gave Irish the lead they never seriously threatened to relinquish.

Leeds gradually ran out of ideas, and once Sheasby powered over for Everitt to convert, it became a damage-limitation exercise.

Venter and then Bates followed Sheasby over the Leeds line, and Irish would certainly have clocked up a half-century had they not been guilty of over-complicating straight forward handling moves.

Irish could go top of the league if they beat Bristol next Sunday and Sale lose at Wasps, while Leeds have now a touch of premiership reality ahead of their next game, against Northampton at Headingley.

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