Tag Archives: exiles

London Welsh 15 Wasps 34

London Welsh 15 Wasps 34: Super Simpson gets his side in contention for top four spot

PUBLISHED:

18:16 GMT, 29 December 2012

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UPDATED:

18:16 GMT, 29 December 2012

A brilliant try from scrum-half Joe Simpson was the highlight of London Wasps' bonus point victory as they did the Aviva Premiership double over London Welsh this season.

Simpson had an outstanding game as Wasps came from behind with tries from wing Elliot Daly, replacement prop Will Taylor and, right at the end, a fourth try for wing Tom Varndell.

Welsh fly-half Gordon Ross kicked all his side's points with five penalties, while Wasps fly-half Nicky Robinson landed three penalties, Daly booted one and replacement stand-off Stephen Jones kicked the only conversion of the match.

Crunch: Hugo Southwell of Wasps is tackled by Franck Montanella

Crunch: Hugo Southwell of Wasps is tackled by Franck Montanella

Wasps were looking for to repeat their win over the Exiles at Adams Park, Wycombe, back in October.

Welsh, meanwhile, needed to bounce back from a 13-6 loss at Worcester.

Although not in any immediate danger at the wrong end of the table after basement side Sale Sharks beat Worcester on Friday night, revenge on their near neighbours would be welcome for head coach Lyn Jones if only to steer them further away from the dogfight below them.

The first half-hour was dominated by the boot, both with positional kicks and shots at goal, as first Welsh took a six-point advantage and then saw it clawed back by their visitors.

There was not a great deal to choose between them up front but the most obvious mistake made by the field kickers, Welsh full-back Tom Arscott a particular offender – was booting the ball straight into touch and losing the territory that would have gained.

Wasps could have led handsomely at the interval had they taken the majority of their goal kicks. Daly missed a long-range effort for the visitors before an excellent scrum from the Exiles and an offside decision given their way saw Ross secure two successes.

On the move: Elliot Daly of Wasps (left) gets going as his side did the double over London Welsh

On the move: Elliot Daly of Wasps (left) gets going as his side did the double over London Welsh

But the lead did not last long as ex-Wales international Robinson levelled matters with two penalties but then sent two more penalties wide of the uprights from similar distances of 25 metres.

Ross, on the other hand, was deadly accurate at that short range. As Welsh frustrated their opponents and the front row of Franck Montanella, Neil Briggs and James Tideswell caused havoc for opponents Zak Taulafo, Rhys Thomas and Phil Swainston, Ross secured another two goals to take his side into a 12-6 interval lead.

But, even though the ball may have been greasy from the earlier rain, there was little excuse for a poor first-half with hardly any invention in attack towards either try-line.

Robinson reduced the arrears after the break to three points with his third penalty before a piece of individual magic took the match up a gear.

In what will surely be one of the contenders for try of the season, Simpson took the ball from a line-out thirty metres from the Welsh line, went through a gap at the back and embarked on a diagonal sprint across the pitch.

Rough and tumble: Ed Jackson of London Welsh is tackled by Joe Launchbury (right)

Rough and tumble: Ed Jackson of London Welsh is tackled by Joe Launchbury (right)

He looked to be going nowhere but somehow found a gap towards the line. The scrum-half ran through three tackles and got past desperate defence on the line to touch down and leave everyone in the crowd amazed.

Robinson failed with the conversion but that put Wasps two points to the good and, when Daly kicked a thumping penalty from fully 53 metres, it was the turning point of the contest.

Wasps were on top and they threatened to leave Welsh with nothing to show for their efforts when Daly sprinted down the right wing to just get in for the second try of the game .

Welsh would not lay down, and Ross' fifth penalty put them within sight of Wasps. But a final killer converted try from replacement Will Taylor saw Wasps home and dry.

Vardnell went over on 83 minutes to get the bonus point and put Wasps challenging for a top four place on Saturday night.

London Irish 9 Leicester 31: match report

London Irish 9 Leicester 31: Shaky Tigers end up with big win

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UPDATED:

22:19 GMT, 22 December 2012

Leicester possessed sufficient control in the pack and enough all-round determination to cope with the filthy conditions at the Madejski and condemn London Irish to a fifth straight Premiership defeat.

In the process, the Tigers cemented their place in the Premiership’s top four.

The visitors took the lead after 12 minutes following a piece of vision by Toby Flood.

Out of my way: Geordan Murphy of Leicester Tigers shrugs off David Paice

Out of my way: Geordan Murphy of Leicester Tigers shrugs off David Paice

With the Exiles expecting a kick to
touch, the Leicester fly-half sent a precise cross-kick into the arms
of Niall Morris, who crossed to touch down for a try in the opposite
corner. Flood added the conversion.

Irish’s early chances were limited to a
hack and hope from Topsy Ojo, which trickled over the dead ball line,
before Leicester’s forward dominance earned a 31st-minute penalty try.

Ian Humphreys’ penalty narrowed the
margin on the stroke of half-time, but the writing was clear on the
Irish wall, even through the murk.

The only blot on Leicester’s copybook
was the 46th-minute sin-binning of scrum-half Ben Youngs for interfering
with an Irish tap penalty.

Resistance: Marcos Ayerza holds off Bryn Evans

Resistance: Marcos Ayerza holds off Bryn Evans

In his absence, Humphreys struck twice
to narrow the margin to five points, but Young’s return saw the
visitors seal the game in emphatic style.

Flood kicked a penalty 13 minutes from
time before Jamie Gibson obstructed Morris as he raced to touch down
after Flood’s sublime break, earning both a penalty try and a
sin-binning.

In the dying moments, Morris claimed
the touchdown which should have been his hat-trick, with Flood
converting the bonus point try to cap an emphatic day for the Tigers.

It was a ‘disappointing’ afternoon,
according to London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith, while his
counterpart, Richard Cockerill, predictably, was ‘pleased’ with the
battling bonus point.

They were differing emotions doubtless shared by all 10,958 in the sodden crowd.

Release: Toby Flood offloads under pressure from Sailosi Tagicakibau

Release: Toby Flood offloads under pressure from Sailosi Tagicakibau

Championship rugby sides threatening promotion chaos

Newcastle can stop a promotion commotion with Championship clubs threatening chaos

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UPDATED:

00:17 GMT, 18 December 2012

English rugby is facing the spectre of further promotion and relegation chaos, as Championship clubs have warned that they will follow the lead of London Welsh by launching a legal challenge if barred from the Aviva Premiership.

At the end of last season, the Exiles won the second-tier title via the play-offs, having learned that they didn’t satisfy the controversial Minimum Standards Criteria for entry into the top division. However, Welsh sought legal advice and on appeal they were belatedly approved for promotion.

This season, Newcastle are clear at the top of the Championship and would satisfy the criteria, but the play-off system – involving home-and-away semi-finals and final – means their return to the Premiership is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Chaos: Newcastle's Grant Shiells and his team-mates can help avert disaster

Chaos: Newcastle's Grant Shiells and his team-mates can help avert disaster

Prior to the start of the campaign, the RFU’s professional rugby director, Rob Andrew, insisted that the MSC would have to be urgently revised in order to provide clarity for clubs and guard against future legal challenges.

However, while minor amendments have been made, Championship clubs are unhappy with the outcome and are ready to take legal action if Newcastle don’t clinch the title and avert a fresh crisis.

‘The Championship view is that the Minimum Standards don’t exist anymore because Welsh successfully challenged the document, and our legal people support that position,’ said Geoff Irvine, chairman of Bedford and the body representing the division’s clubs.

‘We have been sent revised Minimum Standards which only address the primacy of tenure issue really. So what I have done on behalf of the Championship clubs is tell the RFU and Premiership Rugby, “Do what you want, but this could be challenged”.

Dangerous precedent: London Welsh were granted promotion on appeal

Dangerous precedent: London Welsh were granted promotion on appeal

‘We have put them on notice. I took a statement to the last Professional Game Board meeting in November, so that they have a formal record of the position of the Championship clubs.

'There is no point sabre-rattling now, but we have fired a shot across their bows. We’ve told them that we don’t believe in the Minimum Standards and will challenge them at the first available opportunity. If Newcastle win the title then they will be off the hook for this season.’

Irvine’s own club are currently lying second in the Championship table, behind the flying, uneaten Falcons. The chairman outlined the Blues’ stance, adding: ‘At Bedford, we’re just trying to win each game and not look too far ahead for now. But if we get into that position (challenging for the title), then we would employ the lawyers and have a go at them.’

Warning: Rob Andrew recommended the Minimum Standards Criteria be changed

Warning: Rob Andrew recommended the Minimum Standards Criteria be changed

At the end of last season, the RFU were caught in the cross-fire as the shambles over Welsh’s off-and-on promotion tarnished the image of the game, but in Irvine’s eyes, the union are sympathetic to the Championship clubs. The difficulty, he argues, has come from trying to convince PRL to alter the status quo.

‘In fairness to the RFU, they at least said that these minor changes had to be made,’ he said.

‘Premiership Rugby grudgingly accepted them but if they had had their way, there would be no changes at all. The problem we have is that PRL only wanted to address the areas they fell down on in the London Welsh case. They wanted to put a sticking plaster on it and move on.

‘The RFU and Championship clubs believe the whole thing is flawed and has to be fully reviewed. But the RFU recognise that they have to get both parties to agree to the changes, which could take time. PRL won’t agree to major changes until the current agreement runs out in three-and-a-half years.’

London Welsh 15 Exeter 42: Nic Sestaret and Jack Nowell blow away hosts

London Welsh 15 Exeter 42: Late try blitz from Sestaret and Nowell blows away hosts

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UPDATED:

18:59 GMT, 11 November 2012

A completely-changed Exeter gained a measure of revenge for their Aviva Premiership defeat at the Kassam Stadium earlier this season with an emphatic victory over London Welsh in the LV= Cup.

The Warriors scored four of their six tries in the final quarter, with Nic Sestaret and Jack Nowell both going over twice, to blow away their hosts who had led 9-8 at half-time.

Will Carrick-Smith and Mark Foster touched down for Exeter before their late blitz, with Henry Slade adding 12 points from the boot.

Airborne: Myles Dorrian dives over to score a try for Exeter against London Welsh

Airborne: Myles Dorrian dives over to score a try for Exeter against London Welsh

The Exiles, who retained 10 players from the team that met bath last time out, relied on Gordon Ross to kick over all of their points.

The hosts had no answer to the young Chiefs who were a revelation, showing huge enterprise, and had they showed a little more composure in the first half then Welsh would have suffered an even greater defeat.

Exeter did not include any of their players who started last week's Premiership game against Worcester and they initially found themselves in an arm wrestle.

Helpless: Gordon Ross of London Welsh reflects on another defeat for the Premiership strugglers

Helpless: Gordon Ross of London Welsh reflects on another defeat for the Premiership strugglers

London Welsh took the lead after six minutes when Ross kicked a 20-metre penalty but Slade soon responded with an even simpler one for the visitors.

The first quarter was evenly contested but Exeter came closest to scoring.

One of their forward drives actually crossed the line but their effort was ruled out by the TMO and then following penetrative runs from Joel Conlon and Myles Dorrian, Junior Poluleuligaga was pushed into touch a metre short by some desperate home defence.

No way past: Joel Conlon (centre) is tackled by Nick Runciman of London Welsh as he attempts to break through

No way past: Joel Conlon (centre) is tackled by Nick Runciman of London Welsh as he attempts to break through

Against the run of play, Welsh regained the lead when Exeter infringed at a scrum 25 metres out and Ross made no mistake with his kick to give his side a 6-3 lead after 25 minutes.

Three minutes later, the more enterprising Chiefs deservedly scored the first try. Slade's miscued kick went straight to his wing Foster who ran strongly down the left flank deep into the Welsh 22. Exeter recycled the ball and Poluleuligaga's pass sent Carrick-Smith over for the try which Slade was unable to convert.

Welsh relied on their forward drives and the tactical kicking of Ross to have the better of the latter period of the first half and they were rewarded when just before the break, Ross kicked his third penalty to give them a 9-8 interval lead.

Rough and tumble: Lee Beach of London Welsh is tackled by Jack Nowell of Exeter

Rough and tumble: Lee Beach of London Welsh is tackled by Jack Nowell of Exeter

Early in the second half, Slade put the Chiefs back in front with a 45-metre penalty before they scored an excellent second try.

Chris Budgen got them moving forward with a 10-metre drive; the backs were then given their opportunity for Sam Hill to produce an exquisite dummy to send Foster in for an easy try which Slade converted.

Ross kicked two penalties in quick succession but Welsh still trailed 15-18 going into the final quarter.

Exeter then put their foot on the accelerator.

Try time: Miles Dorrian of Exeter celebrates with his team-mates after scoring at the Kassam Stadium

Try time: Miles Dorrian of Exeter celebrates with his team-mates after scoring at the Kassam Stadium

Their burst began with a skilfully created try scored by Nowell, who outflanked the cover defence.

With 12 minutes to go Sestaret went over from close range before the French wing, put away by the lively Poluleuligaga, raced in for his second.

Two minutes from time, Nowell collected his second and Exeter's sixth, which was converted by Slade, as the Welsh were ultimately routed.

London Welsh 16 Bath 9: – match report

London Welsh 16 Bath 9: Super Scott boosts Exiles survival hopes with 70-yard try

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UPDATED:

18:28 GMT, 4 November 2012

A 70-metre try from wing Nick Scott with the last action of the match gave London Welsh an unlikely but crucial win in their battle for Aviva Premiership survival.

Scott picked off Stephen Donald's telegraphed pass and had sufficient pace to hold off the cover for the match-winning try, which Gordon Ross converted.

It was the only try in a desperately poor game and a draw would have been a fair result as neither side played well enough to deserve a win.

Charge: Nick Scott piles through the Bath defence

Charge: Nick Scott piles through the Bath defence

Bath had the better scoring opportunities but though they went close on a number of occasions, they failed to take them. They had the more inventive backs but their scrum was continually under pressure.

Welsh were dogged throughout but provide no attacking spark and until Scott's effort, never threatened the try line.

Bath had an early chance for points but Donald was off target with a 40-metre penalty attempt.

Moments later, Welsh had their opportunity which they also failed to take as Gavin Henson was narrowly wide with his 45-metre kick – but with 10 minutes gone, the outside half was successful from 40 metres to put his side ahead.

Despite this reverse, Bath had the better of the first 15 minutes, desperate defence keeping the visitors out as Ben Williams and Michael Claassens made holes in the Welsh defence.

Against the run of play, the hosts broke out to win a penalty for Henson to extend their lead with a simple 25-metre kick.

Leap: Martin Purdy wins a line-out for London Welsh

Leap: Martin Purdy wins a line-out for London Welsh

The second quarter was more evenly contested, with the Welsh pack matching their opponents, but following a sustained drive from the Bath forwards the hosts were penalised and Donald made no mistake from 30 metres out.

The remainder of the half saw an abundance of penalty awards and a procession of aimless kicking, with Donald and Tom Arscott the worst culprits.

With the last movement of the half, Bath lock Dave Attwood did get over the line but he was held up by some stout home defence, allowing Welsh to retain their fortunate 6-3 lead at the interval.

Bath began strongly after the restart. Powerful runs from Williams and Matt Banahan gained them some momentum but the visitors lost a crucial scrum in front of the Welsh posts when they were easily pushed off their own ball.

However they did gain some reward when after 51 minutes Donald kicked his second penalty to tie up the scores.

No trouble: Tyson Keats gets his pass away during the match at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford

No trouble: Tyson Keats gets his pass away during the match at the Kassam Stadium, Oxford

With 20 minutes to go both teams made changes, with Henson and Banahan being the major casualties as they were replaced by Ross and Horacio Agulla respectively.

Exiles lock Kirill Koulemine was penalised for pulling down at the line-out and a well struck penalty from Donald put Bath into the lead for the first time.

With 10 minutes to go, Bath conceded a scrummage penalty. Ross' 45-metre kick was badly struck and fell short but with 90 seconds remaining on the, clock the outside half was successful from 30 metres to bring his side level.

Scott's heroics at the death then sealed the win.

London Irish 28 Harlequins 31: match report

London Irish 28 Harlequins 31: Casson scrambles last-gasp victory for visitors

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UPDATED:

18:10 GMT, 28 October 2012

A fortuitous last-minute try from Tom Casson gave defending Aviva Premiership champions Harlequins a remarkable victory over London Irish at the Madejski Stadium.

Casson thought he had blown the opportunity in the last play of the game but the television match official ruled that what appeared to be a knock-on had in fact come off Casson's knee, making his subsequent grounding a legal one.

The defeat was harsh on the Exiles who matched Quins throughout and looked destined to claim a vital win behind Ian Humphreys' outstanding kicking display.

Last gasp: Tom Casson scores Harlequins winning try

Last gasp: Tom Casson scores Harlequins winning try

Tries from Danny Care and Tom Williams put Quins clear at 26-19 with just over 20 minutes remaining but back came the Exiles behind Humphreys' boot before Casson's late effort.

Coming into the game Harlequins had lost their last two Premiership encounters while Irish were on a run of three wins on the spin in all competitions, including a 39-17 mauling of high flyers Northampton.

But it was Conor O'Shea's troops who started the brighter and two Ben Botica penalties inside the first 10 minutes had them 6-0 to the good.

Despite Botica putting Quins on the front foot, as he continued to deputise superbly for the injured Nick Evans, it was Irish who scored the game's first try after 14 minutes.

Jamie Gibson expertly charged down Botica's attempted clearance and the ball ballooned up in the air to Guy Armitage over the try line and he simply had to fall over to score the game's first try and his first career Premiership try.

Party time: Harlequins celebrate their win over London Irish

Party time: Harlequins celebrate their win over London Irish

Humphreys slotted the conversion and Irish were in front at 7-6. That lead lasted all of two minutes however until the in-form Danny Care raced clear from halfway after Anthony Watson's hurried offload ricocheted into his hands, and after Botica converted it was 13-7 to the visitors.

The points kept coming in an exciting first half as Humphreys replied with two penalties of his own to level the contest up at 13-13.

Both fly-halves did not really look like missing and another penalty from each kicker meant the sides went in at the break all tied up at 16-16.

It was Irish who took the momentum into the interval though, after Harlequins full-back Brown was sent to the sin bin on the cusp of half-time for a deliberate knock-on.

Sore one: Chris Robshaw

Sore one: Chris Robshaw

After the break the visitors were a man down and without their skipper Chris Robshaw, who suffered a nasty cut above the eye, but they went back in front when Botica slotted a regulation penalty when the Exiles infringed at scrum time.

No sooner had Brown returned from his spell on the sidelines than Irish began to turn up the heat, turning over Ugo Monye from the kick-off and earning a penalty that Humphreys slotted to level it up again at 19-19.

Quins' effervescent backline had been kept largely quiet but after 52 minutes they sprung into action as Care, Botica and Matt Hopper combined to devastating effect to put Williams over in the right corner for the try of the match, Botica's conversion creeping over from the touchline.

The Exiles continued to respond in quick fashion and two Humphreys penalties made it 26-25 going into the last quarter of an hour.

And after Nick Easter was penalised in the 73rd minute Humphreys made no mistake to put the Exiles back in front against the defending champions.

Monye went perilously close in the right corner late on as Quins pushed for the final score, but it was left to Casson.

He may have appeared to knock on when he fell clumsily on a loose ball over the try-line but the TMO thought otherwise and Quins were saved.

Wasps 29 London Welsh 19: Match report

Wasps 29 London Welsh 19: Wade at the double to deny Exiles

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UPDATED:

18:33 GMT, 28 October 2012

Two superb tries from Christian Wade were the highlights of Wasps win over a dogged but limited London Welsh side at Adams Park.

The visitors had no answer to the pace and elusiveness of the 20-year-old wing, who must surely be in the future thoughts of the national selectors, having been omitted from the recently announced squad for the autumn internationals.

Tom Varndell also impressed with two tries but Wasps should have won by a far greater margin. They were careless at times and it didn't help that Nicky Robinson missed five from his six attempts.

Diving over: Christian Wade goes over for a try against London Welsh

Diving over: Christian Wade goes over for a try against London Welsh

Wasps suffered a blow before the match when England squad member, James Haskell, withdrew with an illness.

The home side made a dream start opening the scoring in the third minute. Welsh wing, Phil Mackenzie, carelessly knocked on allowing the hosts a scrum on the 22 metre line. Wasps won the ball and moved the ball sweetly along the line for Wade to speed past the cover defence for the try.

Robinson missed the conversion but soon afterwards was successful with a 35 metre penalty.

On the charge: Christian Wade beats the London Welsh defence to break for the line

On the charge: Christian Wade beats the London Welsh defence to break for the line

Gavin Henson had Welsh's first opportunity for points with a 45 metre penalty attempt but he lost his footing as he made contact resulting in his kick falling short.

However he made amends with his next effort, this time from 20 metres out, to leave Welsh 8-3 behind.

Wasps dominated the first half hour in terms of possession and territory and they deservedly extended their lead when Lee Thomas and Wade worked Varndell in the clear on half-way.

The wing took his chance by outflanking the cover for an excellent individual try.

High jump: Marco Wentzel wins the line out

High jump: Marco Wentzel wins the line out

Henson attempted an ambitious 60 metre penalty but his kick fell comfortably short but when Marco Wentzel was offside, the outside half fired over a 50 metre kick.

On the stroke of half-time an alert Lee Thomas dropped a wide-angled goal in impressive style to give Wasps a 16-6 lead but that success was tempered when the influential Joe Simpson was stretchered off with a leg injury after the players had left the field for the break.

Early in the second half Welsh missed a chance to reduce the arrears when Henson was off target with a 45 metre penalty and they were made to pay when Wade scored a breathtaking second try.

Offload: Andrea Masi gets the ball away before he is tackled

Offload: Andrea Masi gets the ball away before he is tackled

Robinson fielded a clearance kick just inside his own half and fed Wade. The wing's brilliant footwork evaded two defenders before accelerating away from Tyson Keats for a stunning score. Robinson missed his third conversion attempt.

From their first attack of note, the Welsh collected their first try when following a quick dart from Keats and a neat pass from Alfie To'oala, Mckenzie was able to force his way over in the corner.

Henson and Robinson both missed penalties so Wasps held a 21-11 advantage going into the final quarter but it wasn't long before Wasps sealed victory with their bonus point try when Varndell was presented with an easy run in.

The spirited Welsh responded with their second try when prop Franck Montanella drove over from close range and two minutes from the end, a penalty from Gordon Ross gave them hope of a bonus point but that was almost immediately extinguished when Lee Thomas responded with a 30 metre effort.

Scott Taylor set for Hull KR exit

Taylor has played his last game for Hull KR, says chairman as young prop nears exit

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UPDATED:

11:11 GMT, 27 September 2012

Hull KR are preparing to sell promising forward Scott Taylor to the highest bidder, chairman Neil Hudgell has revealed.

The 21-year-old prop, who played for England against the Exiles this summer, has 12 months left of his contract with the Robins but has refused to discuss an extension and has been linked with moves to Wigan and neighbours Hull FC.

'We have done all we can to try and tie Scott down longer term, with vastly-improved terms being offered,' Hudgell told the Hull Daily Mail.

Out: Scott Taylor (left) looks to have played his last game for Hull KR

Out: Scott Taylor (left) looks to have played his last game for Hull KR

'He refuses to negotiate at all, which is a very strong indicator to me that he doesn't want to be here any more.

'It is a disappointment after what we have invested in him but I am not prepared to be backed into a corner on it and be dictated to by Scott and his agent.

'Inevitably I think that means he has played his last game for the club and we will sell him to the highest bidder.'

Hull KR recently allowed stand-off Blake Green to join Wigan despite having two years left on his contract in a deal thought to be worth 100,000.

Santi Cazorla, the man who made Arsenal forget about Cesc Fabregas

Classy Cazorla, the man who made Arsenal forget about Fabregas

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UPDATED:

21:29 GMT, 22 September 2012

The long list of Arsenal exiles is familiar not just to supporters. Even new signings at the club are well used to enquiries about the departures of Robin van Persie, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Alex Song. And the seven-year wait for redemption in the form of a trophy is also a recurring lament.

So when the question comes, Santi Cazorla is well prepared. Arsenal take on Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium in what will be seen as a reality check for their early-season optimism. Can a club who have been shedding star players at the rate Arsenal have be truly competitive, especially against the Premier League champions with an unlimited budget

Little master: Santi Cazorla has made big impression

Little master: Santi Cazorla has made big impression

‘Well, it’s clear that City can spend lots of money on transfers and so have a very powerful team,’ says Cazorla. ‘But Arsenal, within their means, have also been putting together a very good squad over the last two years, so we have a good group and it’s clear we now want to change that dynamic of not winning anything.’

‘Dinmica’ is the word he uses in Spanish and the literal translation seems a little formal. It is undoubtedly correct, though, the nub of the problem for Arsene Wenger’s sides. They have had good teams, not least in 2010, when they will surely long rue the four-week period in which they lost the Carling Cup final, were knocked out of the Champions League, FA Cup and effectively conceded the league title as a defining moment.

But those failures, the inability to convert title chances, convinced the likes of Fabregas and Van Persie that Wenger’s project was flawed. That summer Nasri and Clichy went to the opponents, City, Fabregas to Barcelona and Van Persie has now followed to Manchester United, all seemingly concluding the league could not be won with Arsenal.

On the ball: Cazorla will face a big test at Manchester City

On the ball: Cazorla will face a big test at Manchester City

Cazorla, though, offers fresh hope. ‘Well, I believe it was a number of things [that caused them to switch teams]: they had good offers and, in the end, they decided to change teams. I believe that things are positive at Arsenal, that we are capable of fighting with those teams. Of course, Arsenal haven’t won anything for many years but I believe that Arsenal always show passion and are a team of winners.

‘We want to challenge for the title, hopefully. The objective is to fight for it. It’s clear there are lots of great teams, not just City — there are also Manchester United, Liverpool, despite the fact they haven’t started so well, Tottenham, Chelsea. There are a lot of teams challenging, no The objective is to win it and be there fighting right until the end, to have the chance of winning it.’

One of the key reasons why this may be more than the usual fighting talk is Cazorla himself. Lukas Podolski has made a huge early impression and the form of last season’s recruits, Per Mertesacker and Mikel Arteta has been hugely significant but none has the transformative ability of Cazorla on a game.

Wenger usually blanches when comparisons are made with Fabregas, so highly does he regard his former player. With Cazorla, he has no such reticence. ‘He is that player,’ says Wenger. ‘He has that quality.’

Cazorla, himself, resists praise. The Arsenal staff have already noted he is always smiling and he seems an unlikely personality in the sometimes brutal world of football. He has said in the past that he is sometimes too innocent in his dealings with people and he seems exceptionally open and amicable.

Class act: Santi Corzola (bottom row, far left) with his Oviedo youth team-mates, including new Swansea striker Michu (centre bottom)

Class act: Santi Corzola (bottom row, far left) with his Oviedo youth team-mates, including new Swansea striker Michu (centre bottom)

His instinctive modesty was nurtured in the small village of Lugo de Llanera, a rural enclave of around 2,000 inhabitants sandwiched between the cities of Oviedo and Gijn in Asturias, northern Spain, where, as a child, he met his partner, Ursula Santirso, with whom he has a two-year-old son.

Perhaps it is due to the
fact that he has only now, at the age of 27, been recruited by one of
Europe’s major teams. win.

‘Arteta and Cazorla would play in many other countries and in Spain they don’t because they have Iniesta, they have Busquets, they have Xavi and they don’t have a chance,’ said Wenger. ‘Even Fabregas is not always playing. It’s not a coincidence they have so many players like that. It’s down to the way they educate their players, a concentration on technique.’

Another, David Silva, will be opposing him and still another, Juan Mata, next weekend when Chelsea come to The Emirates.

The common thread among all those players, apart from ability, is their size, or rather lack of it. Cazorla is the smallest of them all, at under 5ft 6in and 10st 7lb.

But he is blas about the issue. ‘I don’t see an advantage, nor a disadvantage. Ultimately football is played with the ball and isn’t dependent on your height or strength. In Spain there are strong players as well, as in all leagues. The Premier League is characterised by its physicality but I’m adapting very well so it’s not much of a change.’

Wenger appreciates the link the team now has between midfield and the final third and Cazorla himself has spoken about his delight at being asked to play such a pivotal role, rather than the wide position which he had expected to play. Though he is said to marginally favour his right foot, he is equally at home on either.

Right now he is settling into London life, moving house this week, finally leaving the hotel in which he has lived since his move, another step on the road to establishing himself here.

‘That’s really important for the family, for my boy,’ he said. ‘London is good, very different to Spain, but very good. Little by little I’m getting to know it better and the people have really welcomed me.’

Quietly, against a background noise that suggested imminent crisis, Wenger and his staff have been rebuilding the team that fell apart. Of the starting XI against Montpellier in midweek, seven were not with the club 15 months ago.

‘The boss has made lots of changes,’ said Cazorla. ‘We have a good squad and I think we can be optimistic about fighting for titles.’

This week will go some way to testing that but with Cazorla they have grounds for optimism.

London Irish 29 Bath 22 – match report: Steve Shingler stops the rot

London Irish 29 Bath 22: Exiles stop the rot thanks to Shingler's inspired boot

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UPDATED:

16:53 GMT, 22 September 2012

London Irish climbed off the foot of the Aviva Premiership with their first win in four attempts as they defeated fourth-placed Bath.

It was not a contest likely to live forever in the memory but Irish coach Brian Smith would have taken any victory after three defeats in which they shipped over 40 points each time.

The kicking contest was won by Irish centre Steve Shingler who landed 19 of his side's points, with five penalties and the conversions of Halani Aulika and Jonathan Joseph's tries.

No stopping him: Jonathan Joseph dives over the line to score a try at the Madejski Stadium

No stopping him: Jonathan Joseph dives over the line to score a try at the Madejski Stadium

Bath's only touchdown was from wing Kyle Eastmond while Olly Barkley, playing his last away game for his club prior to his move to French outfit Racing Metro, landed five penalties and a conversion.

Irish fly-half Ian Humphreys made his first start for the Exiles, as did Tongan prop Aulika. Lock Matt Garvey and flanker Jamie Gibson were drafted back into the side from the team beaten 43-14 at London Wasps last week.

Barkley was switched to the centre from fly-half instead of Ben Williams, who failed a late fitness test, while South African flanker Francois Louw was also a late withdrawal with Ben Skirving coming in off the bench.

It was an unusual experience for former Irish head coach Toby Booth to be with the opposition at the Madejski Stadium as an assistant at Bath.

On the run: Marland Yarde of London Irish makes a try-scoring break through the Bath defence

On the run: Marland Yarde of London Irish makes a try-scoring break through the Bath defence

Barkley and Shingler exchanged a pair of penalties apiece in the opening exchanges with Irish showing good enterprise as the backs found gaps and only a couple of good tackles prevented them reaching the Bath danger zone.

Shingler was deadly accurate with his boot and, having landed his earlier kicks from 30 and 45 metres, put his third over to give Irish the lead for the first time at 9-6, again from 45 metres.

Kicking king: Steve Shingler kicks at goal

Kicking king: Steve Shingler kicks at goal

Bath regained the lead with a well-worked try. Full-back Nick Abendanon was involved twice in a passing movement on the left as Bath tore upfield from halfway.

With the Irish defence stretched, Abendanon was tackled 15 metres out but managed to flip the ball inside to Eastmond for the former St Helens and England rugby league flyer to go over.

Barkley converted to give Bath a four-point advantage, but in the dying moments of the half, Irish attacked and found their way deep into the home 22 where, from a line-out, the pack drove prop Aulika over to start his Irish career with a real swing.

Shingler added the conversion, and it would have been a very much happier Irish head coach Brian Smith who went to encourage his troops after the past few weeks of woe.

Barkley booted his third penalty just after the re-start but a great backs move from a line-out saw wing Marland Yarde charge through into the midfield and feed Joseph to steam home outside him.

Shingler's conversion stretched the Irish lead to 10 points and suddenly they were in range of victory.

The Exiles did not help themselves when flanker Jamie Gibson was sin-binned for a ruck offence as Bath piled on the pressure inside the home 22 but the 14-man Irish cleared their decks.

Barkley's fourth and fifth penalties of the afternoon gave Bath hope of taking the victory, needing only a try to take the lead again.

Mobbed: Jonathan Joseph of London Irish is congratulated by team-mates after scoring a try

Mobbed: Jonathan Joseph of London Irish is congratulated by team-mates after scoring a try

But a moment of indiscipline after 71 minutes was the killer blow as Shingler booted his last penalty, stretching Irish's lead to seven points, and a strong defensive effort at the end ensured a much-needed home success.