As dream debuts go, Michael Dykes’ Gallagher Premiership bow for London Irish sits right up there.
The 21-year-old London Irish wing bagged a hat-trick as the Exiles defeated 14-man Harlequins 42-24 in Brentford. And in the process, Irish’s latest academy graduate star became just the third Premiership debutant to claim a treble.
Dykes now sits alongside Lesley Vainikolo for Gloucester in 2007 and Courtnall Skosan for Northampton in 2021 as notching three scores on his maiden league appearances.
The pacy wing had stepped in for England absentee Ollie Hassell-Collins, and duly claimed man-of-the-match plaudits in a fine showing as Irish swiped the capital bragging rights at the Gtech Community Stadium.
A resurgent Irish ran in six tries to condemn Quins to a fourth-straight Gallagher Premiership defeat, with captain Stephan Lewies sent off midway through the first-half for Tabai Matson’s men.
The Exiles leapfrogged reigning champions Leicester into seventh place in the table, and now trail Quins by just one point in the Premiership standings.
Chandler 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 Matson’s side were well beaten in truth.
Irish could have been forgiven for craving the absent Hassell-Collins’s scoring power – but instead they turned to another academy graduate in the form of Dykes. The razor-sharp wide man took his treble with aplomb, racing in either side of half-time to subdue the struggling Quins.
As the Exiles have ground up the table, so Quins have slipped from their top-four perch down to sixth.
Irish have now claimed four wins in five league games since defeating Newcastle 39-17 in Brentford on December 3. Harlequins have lost all four of their Premiership matches in the same time span, an unwanted sequence dating back to the 19-13 reverse at Bath on December 3.
Harlequins’ horror-show start let Irish steal a two-try march inside the first 10 minutes. Cunningham-South and Dykes both crossed before the visitors had their bearings.
Quins forced a penalty score to make their mark with Dykes sin-binned in the process – but from the restart Matson’s men let the ball bounce and a gleeful Stokes swiped up and raced in unopposed.
Debut hat-trick alert 🎩🚨— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) January 29, 2023
It's a "dreamy" Premiership debut for Michael Dykes who scores a third try for @londonirish!#GallaghersPrem pic.twitter.com/usKAKQ23wo
Harlequins skipper Lewies was then sent off via video review for an illegal ruck cleanout, with replay footage showing his shoulder had connected with Cunningham-South's head.
Allan crossed for a neat score from Nick David’s fine clean break as Quins attempted to rally, but Dykes nipped in either side of half-time to kill the contest in all effect.
Bassett and Lamb claimed tries for Quins to make a game of it heading into the final quarter, but Joe Marler was sin-binned with 10 minutes to play and Irish eased to victory.
Flanker Pearson ground home amid raucous celebrations from a 13,000-strong crowd, to cap a memorable day for the Exiles.