Michael Dykes’ Gallagher Premiership debut hat-trick had London Irish head coach Les Kiss weighing up whether to reach for the superlatives or the expletives.
Dykes toasted his first Premiership appearance with a well-taken treble as Irish downed capital rivals Harlequins 42-24 at the Gtech Community Stadium.
The 21-year-old wing became just the third player in Premiership history to mark his maiden appearance with a hat-trick. The previous two to achieve that feat however were seasoned professionals and full internationals – leaving Dykes out on his own as the only academy product to claim a debut treble.
Lesley Vainikolo was a fully-fledged New Zealand Rugby League star when he ran in five tries for Gloucester against Leeds in 2007, with the “Volcano” quickly going on to represent England in union. Courtnall Skosan already boasted 12 South Africa caps when notching his Northampton debut hat-trick in 2021.
Irish coach Kiss hailed Dykes for biding his time across two years of hard graft to now seize his chance in the injury absence of Ben Loader and the England call-up for Ollie Hassell-Collins.
“I think it’s a brilliant thing, a bloody great thing,” said Kiss. “He worked off some really good work in the middle, Chandler [Cunningham-South] sucking in and collapsing defences and finding space.
“His nous to be able to stay where he needs to and not chase ghosts, those learnings are good, so he’s reaping the rewards of what we do in the middle. So good finishers do that, they reap the rewards and finish it off. And he did that well.
“I don’t want to pump his tyres up too much, but he’s good lad and he needs to keep his head now, and it’s going to be difficult in selection now. Those options are great for us though.”
Cunningham-South, James Stokes and Tom Pearson all crossed to add to Dykes’ triple for an Irish side that has emerged from a tough spell across October and November and into fine league form.
Quins claimed a try bonus point thanks to scores from Tommy Allan, Josh Bassett, Dino Lamb and a penalty effort, but Tabai Matson’s side were well beaten in truth.
Irish’s Australia lock Adam Coleman’s serious shoulder injury proved the only downside of an otherwise majorly impressive Exiles win.
“I came off at half-time to see how Adam was but he’d gone to hospital,” said Kiss.
“I’m not sure of the nature of the injury yet but it didn’t look good. It was a selfless act to dive on a loose ball but it was all accidental. It’s a massive blow for us because it makes a big difference when we’ve got him and Rob [Simmons] together.”
Quins suffered their fourth-straight Premiership defeat, in a run dating back to early December. Captain Stephan Lewies was sent off for an illegal cleanout at a ruck, with head coach Matson accepting the dismissal – and his side’s need to improve quickly.
“If you connect with the head in that situation it’s a red card and it’s a fair decision,” said Matson.
“We’ve got work to do in the Premiership, that’s clear. We’ve slipped down the league and had a difficult time. And we’re a mid-table team now as things stand.
“There will be a few days off simply because of how unusual the schedule has been also because of what’s to come. But we’ve got work to do.”