Boasting one of the biggest forward packs in Europe, Bayonne challenged physically throughout. However, led by van der Merwe and fellow South African engine room enforcer Ruan Botha, hard graft and a technically superior set-piece outdid the French.
With Irish’s backs weighing in with five of the tries, van der Merwe said: “Bayonne has incredibly big players and they go for a long time. But we knew if we stayed strong as a team, got our double hits in and stopped their offloads, we could be effective.”
Alofa Alofa threatened early for Bayonne and the visitors led when Alivereti Veitokani failed to deal with Brandon Fajardo’s steepling kick and Arthur Duhau pounced.
Mobile Bayonne hooker Maxime Delonca and burly back rows Sione Tau and Mat Luamanu were proving hot to handle as Irish struggled to gain any traction. However, the Exiles’ setpiece was in good order and a huge scrum turnover led to their first try.
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November 24, 2019