Billy Burns’ 21-point haul was enough for Hartpury College to edge a dour contest against strugglers London Irish Wild Geese.
It was a largely disjointed performance from the league leaders, due in part to injury and unavailability that forced six changes from the side that started the victory over Canterbury the previous week.
But, despite their stilted display, the young Hartpury team showed enough character and defensive grit to withstand a second-half onslaught from the Wild Geese and claim a win that keeps them six points clear at the top of the division.
Ben Roberts put the Gloucestershire outfit in front with a try on eight minutes after Hartpury jacked back from a driving lineout, with Burns slotting the extras from the touchline.
Burns and the visitors’ Oscar Thomas exchanged penalties before Hartpury’s James Gibbons touched down from a catch-and-drive for the hosts’ second try.
Fullback Thomas and fly-half Burns’ kicking duel continued as the former kicked two to the latter’s one, leaving the college side holding a nine-point lead at half time.
After an error-strewn opening half, the second period began as sloppily for Hartpury when they gifted Irish a scrum for being ahead of the ball at the kickoff.
But it proved to be a blessing in disguise as the home pack won possession against the head and Burns ghosted through the off-guard Wild Geese defence to run home unopposed for seven points.
The hosts could have extended their advantage as Steve Leonard and Terry Fanolua went close in quick succession, with Hartpury seemingly set to seize control of proceedings.
But it was their opponents who grabbed the next score as scrum-half Tom Eastham sneaked over on the blindside seconds after replacing Ed Hoadley, improved impressively by Thomas.
Thomas swiftly brought Irish to within two points when he converted Andrew Evans’ five-pointer, the lock capitalising on a lost Hartpury lineout on their own five-metre line.
There was only one team in it by this stage as the visitors swarmed forward with menace once again, but a turnover from the outstanding Hartpury openside Alex Woodburn in the red zone ensured that his team’s lead remained intact.
That incident proved to be somewhat of a turning point as the home side steadied the ship in the final quarter-of-an-hour, with two penalties from Burns taking them out of range.
There was, however, still time for Irish to claim a deserved losing bonus point when Hartpury spoke to the referee out of turn, granting Thomas his fourth penalty with the last kick of the game.
BY LIAM DOLAN – Original article:http://www.inattheside.com/billy-burns-clock-21-points-see-hartpury-past-london-irish/