Championship play-off final: London Irish 55-48 Yorkshire Carnegie (agg: 84-66)
|Green King IPA Championship|
|London Irish (22) 55|
|Tries: Hearn, McKibbin 2, Mulchrone, Lewington 2 Cons: Bell 5 Pens: Bell 5|
|Yorkshire Carnegie (20) 48|
|Tries: Stegmann 2, Mayhew, West, penalty try, Faletau Cons: Ford 5 Pens: Ford 3|
London Irish were promoted back to the Premiership after beating Yorkshire Carnegie in the play-off final.
The lead changed hands four times in the first 20 minutes after Ciaran Hearn ran in for Irish inside a minute.
Seb Stegmann touched down for Carnegie before Brendan McKibbin's converted try gave Irish the lead only for Mike Mayhew to put the visitors back on top.
Fergus Mulchrone put the Exiles in front before they ran in three second-half tries to seal a top-flight return.
The hosts went into the game leading by 11 points from the first leg of the Championship final and aside from an early scare they never looked like relinquishing their advantage.
Alex Lewington crossed straight after the restart, McKibbin touched down for his second and Lewington got his second after a misplaced pass from Carnegie as Irish built up a big lead.
The visitors then scored four second-half tries of their own with Ben Wes, a penalty try, Sione Faletau and Stegmann keeping the score on the night reasonable but Tommy Bell's boot meant a comeback was never on the cards.
Irish's Ben Franks and Carnegie's Charlie Beech were sent off for punching late on.
The game was Bryan Redpath's last in charge of Yorkshire Carnegie as the former Scotland international is leaving the club to take up a job outside of the sport.
Old boys help Exiles bounce back
Irish's return to the Premiership comes at the first attempt and just over a year after their relegation from the top-flight under former head coach Tom Coventry.
New Zealander Coventry departed soon after following a season in charge and was replaced by former Irish second row Nick Kennedy as director of rugby.
With coaching assistance from fellow ex-players Declan Danaher, George Skivington and Paul Hodgson, Kennedy swiftly guided Irish to the Championship summit as they lost just once in the regular season.
South African Brendan Venter, also a former Irish player, helped oversee the coaching transition in his role as technical director in between working with Italy and more recently South Africa as defence coach.
Can Irish compete back at the top?
Following promotion, London Irish will hope they can fare better than Bristol, whose own return to the Premiership lasted just one season.
With just more than three months before the Premiership resumes, the race will be on for Irish to recruit new players and secure existing ones on new contracts.
But, with a squad already containing more than a dozen internationals and highly-rated teenage winger Joe Cokanasiga, selected in England's squad to tour Argentina next month, the foundations are there.
Off-the-field, the club will also need to appoint a new chief executive to succeed club stalwart Bob Casey, who returns to the Republic of Ireland with his family this summer.
London Irish: Bell, Lewington, Hearn, Mulchrone, Ojo, Marshall, McKibbin, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Paice, Franks, De Chaves, Sinclair, Coman, Cowan, Treviranus.
Replacements: Porecki, Court, Hoskins, Robson, Narraway, Steele, Tonks.
Yorkshire Carnegie: Elder, Holmes, Lucock, Casson, Stegmann, Ford, Davies, Beech, M. Mayhew, Cusack, Smith, Myerscough, Stedman, R. Mayhew, Burrows.
Replacements: Graham, Boyce, Faletau, West, Beck, Green, Wright.