London Irish 30, Rotherham 11 (result)
Powergen Cup holders London Irish ended Rotherham’s hopes of achieving another giant-killing feat as they comfortably secured a semi-final place at the Madejski Stadium.
Rotherham, who claimed Bristol Shoguns’ sixth-round scalp, were soundly beaten by a technically-superior Irish side. It ended Rotherham’s run of 34 straight victories in all competitions.
The Yorkshire club, battling for National League One title glory this season and a probable Zurich Premiership place, battled valiantly in all departments.
Irish though, whose cup final success last season secured a first major trophy in their 104-year history, were a class above.
Hooker Naka Drotske and wing Michael Horak scored first-half tries to build an imposing victory platform, before Hentie Martens and Paul Sackey completed the job as Rotherham ran out of steam.
Exiles fly-half Barry Everitt landed two conversions, a drop-goal and penalty to confirm Irish’s dominance and book a semi-final place alongside Zurich Premiership rivals Leicester, Gloucester and Northampton.
Rotherham centre Matt Oliver claimed a 73rd-minute consolation try, while fly-half Ramiro Pez booted two penalties, but Irish never remotely looked as though would follow Bristol into cup oblivion.
Irish made a statement of intent after just 58 seconds when Everitt dropped a 30-metre goal to give Rotherham immediate food for thought.
The prolific fly-half doubled Irish’s lead just seven minutes later when he slotted a short-range penalty, but Rotherham regrouped and began to establish a degree of parity up-front.
Livewire scrum-half Jacob Rauluni was at the hub of their best efforts, sniping away behind a committed pack, and one delightful reverse pass almost created an opening for prop Nick Lloyd and supporting lock Dan Cook.
Rotherham’s Italian international number 10 Pez landed a 16th-minute penalty as the visitors continued to make headway, yet Irish absorbed pressure well and ultimately struck two significant blows before half-time.
An ominous spell of forward dominance was rewarded nine minutes before the break when Rotherham’s defensive numbers expired and South African international Drotske swooped for a try.
Everitt narrowly failed to land the touchline conversion attempt, but Rotherham immediately found themselves under further siege, which resulted in Irish’s second try.
Number eight Chris Sheasby set off on one of his trademark charges, and although Rotherham defenders hauled him down, they could not keep out Horak, whose momentum took him over for a score that Everitt improved.
Pez kicked another penalty to make it 18-6 at half-time, illustrating that Rotherham had no intention of rolling over, even though their attacking options were sorely restricted.
Rotherham shaded a scoreless third quarter – Pez missed a 40-metre penalty chance – but Irish gradually showed signs of exerting a forward stranglehold, and try number three duly arrived.
The Exiles pack battered away, eventually breaking through when sufficient space appeared, with Martens claiming a touchdown, converted by Everitt.
Sackey scored just seven minutes later to compound Rotherham’s misery, and although Oliver had the final say, it all left Rotherham with considerable food for thought ahead of a potential Premiership campaign next term.