Ireland have retained the Stuart Mangan Memorial Cup in tonight’s curtain riser in South-West London as England Legends XV v Ireland Legends XV finished 22-22.
There was no shortage of familiar faces on display as some true greats of both countries entertained a healthy crowd in south-west London before all eyes focus on HQ tomorrow.
The game began in scrappy fashion as both sets of players looked to find their feet but Ireland threatened first with a lovely grubber kick up the right wing which unfortunately for the visitors, didn’t amount to anything.
England’s Iain Balshaw, who was excellent throughout, made the first line break of the game but his side coughed up possession on the subsequent phase of play. Ireland responded by getting Man Of The Match, Gordon D’Arcy, into the game and he sent a missile of a pass out to the left wing which brought play into England’s 22.
Paddy Wallace soon got Ireland’s first try of the game when Gavin Duffy made a sublime break and he showed great awareness to find Paddy Wallace and the former Ulster man sold the cheekiest of dummies to canter over for the first try of the game.
Ireland began to show some quality when Duffy and John Kelly displayed some great passing in midfield. Fionn Carr was always looking a threat with ball in hand but then Spencer Brown spotted a gap in the Irish defence to get England’s first try as he sprinted through some lazy defending.
The conversion was good which put England into 7-5 lead but James Downey responded in kind in typical fashion as the former Munster man crashed through the English defence from close range to get Ireland back into the lead.
Former Ireland and Munster legend Mick Galwey made his appearance midway through the first half and he got a welcome return to the rugby pitch as he was on the receiving end of a tasty handoff to the face.
It was England who had the last laugh of the first-half when Chris Sheasby levelled matter as the sides went in at the break with England’s second try of the game.
England flew out of the blocks at the start of the second half and they got two tries through Ollie Phillips and Dan Scarbrough. The former showed electric pace up the left wing to evade the Irish defence while Scarbrough danced over from close range to give England a 22-12 advantage.
Ireland were not to lie down, however, Des Dillon powered through about four English tackles to get over in the corner and then D’Arcy picked up a bouncing ball to sprint home and get the levelling score.
England won a few penalties at the end of the game which they could have easily kicked for goal, but in the spirit of the game, they opted for the corner on two occasions. They weren’t able to get that try and Ireland almost snatched it with an intercept which was inches away from going to hand.
The game finished 22-22 and as a result, Ireland retained the Stuart Mangan Memorial Cup.