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Saints 25 London Irish 17: Hosts complete superb second-half comeback

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Ten blistering minutes straight after the interval from Northampton Saints proved to be the key, as the hosts prevailed against a resilient London Irish in a thrilling encounter at Franklin’s Gardens.

The Exiles, bottom-of-the-table heading into this Aviva Premiership clash, belied their league position to score twice despite plenty of Saints pressure in the opening period, and led 14-3 at the interval.

But the Saints coaches’ half-time team talk clearly did the trick as Northampton were a different side upon the resumption, proving unplayable as George North, Rob Horne and Mikey Haywood crossed to preserve their home form – making it four wins on the bounce at the Gardens in 2018.

The victory sees Saints close the gap on Harlequins as the quest for a top-six finish continues.

London Irish opened strongly, and managed to break the deadlock after six minutes as a spilled pass by Saints was latched onto by Alex Lewington, who showed off his footballing skills down the right flank to pick up the first score.

Northampton then piled the pressure on the Reading-based side, but despite numerous phases in the Irish 22, the hosts couldn’t get past the determined defence and over the line.

But Saints’ attack refused to let up, with players sinking to their knees after another brutal 20-plus phases of play – with still no points to show for their attacking efforts.

And Northampton were punished for a lack of ruthlessness when Lewington scored the second try of the afternoon for London Irish, beating North to a bouncing ball following a punt across the whitewash, giving them a 14-0 lead after just 25 minutes.

The first points for Northampton came from the boot of Piers Francis, who struck a penalty from well over 40 metres out to get on the scoreboard for the home side.

Despite Irish earning a five-metre line out on the stroke of the interval, skipper Christian Day ruled the skies and stole the ball, with Francis’ kick to the back of the Tetley’s Stand closing out a frustrating half.

But the Northampton retaliation was instant; North kick-started the comeback with a try inside the first minute of the second half after a blitzing run stunned the Irish defence, Francis’ touchline conversion closing the gap to just four points.

Only four minutes later Horne crossed in the corner for his fifth try in Black, Green and Gold, as Saints tore through London Irish with quick offloading proving lethal.

Haywood was next to cross the line, as two mauls sent the Irish players back over half the pitch, nd the third was shoved over the whitewash to the right of the posts – Saints had produced the most stunning of comebacks, with three tries in eight second-half minutes putting the score at 22-14.

Saints fought hard in pursuit of their bonus-point try, but the Irish defence was resolute and did well to keep the play out of their own half.

The Exiles were still in touch heading into the final ten minutes, but Francis extended Saints’ lead with a brilliantly-executed drop-goal from 25 metres out to put his side eight points clear with as many minutes to play – prompting a huge cheers from the 13,108 in attendance.

And while Irish fought to the death for a late try, their efforts weren’t enough and Northampton’s winning streak at home in 2018 continued.

SAINTS: Tuala; North, Horne, Burrell, Foden; Francis, Groom; Ma’afu, Haywood, Brookes, Ratuniyarawa, Day (capt), Gibson, Brüssow, Harrison
Replacements: Marshall, van Wyk, Ford-Robinson, Ribbans, Wood, Reinach, Myler, Tuitavake 

IRISH: Marshall, Cokanasiga, Fowlie, McLean, Lewington; Tonks, van Zyl; Franks, Paice, Hoskins, van der Merwe (capt), Paulo, Botha, Northcote-Green, Treviranus
Replacements: Porecki, Elrington, Du Plessis, de Chaves, Gilsenan, Steele, Bell, Tikoirotuma

TIMELINE
7’ IRISH Try Lewington, Conversion Tonks 0-7
25’ IRISH Try Lewington, Conversion Tonks 0-14
28’ SAINTS Penalty Francis 3-14

HALF-TIME Saints 3-14 Irish
41’ SAINTS Try North, Conversion Francis 10-14
45’ SAINTS Try Horne 15-14
49’ SAINTS Try Haywood, Conversion Francis 22-14
57’ IRISH Penalty Tonks 22-17
72’ SAINTS Drop-goal Francis 25-17

FULL TIME Saints 25-17 Irish

Rugby

SAINTS 25 LONDON IRISH 17: Video Highlights

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

The best of the action as Saints scored three second-half tries to secure victory against London Irish.

 

Match

Northampton Saints vs London Irish

Match Details

FT ScoreFull Time Score

Saints 25-17 London Irish

Attendance

13,108

Referee

Ian Tempest

Northampton Saints
Northampton Saints
25

Summary

Full Time

London Irish
London Irish
17

Starting LineupNorthampton Saints

14

George North

13

Rob Horne

12

Luther Burrell

11

Ben Foden

9

Nic Groom

1

Campese Ma'afu

3

Kieran Brookes

5

Christian Day

6

Jamie Gibson

7

Heinrich Brüssow

SubsNorthampton Saints

18

Jamal Ford-Robinson

21

Cobus Reinach

22

Stephen Myler

23

Nafi Tuitavake

Opposition LineupLondon Irish

15
James Marshall
14
Joe Cokanasiga
13
Tom Fowlie
12
Luke McLean
11
Alex Lewington
10
Greig Tonks
9
Piet Van Zyl
1
Ben Franks
2
David Paice
3
Ollie Hoskins
4
Franco Van Der Merwe
5
Filo Paulo
6
Arno Botha
7
Max Northcote Green
8
Ray Ofisa Treviranus

SubsLondon Irish

16
Dave Porecki
17
Harry Elrington
18
Petrus Du Plessis
19
Sebastian De Chaves
20
Conor Gilsenan
21
Scott Steele
22
Tommy Bell
23
Asaeli Tikoirotuma
Rugby

North, Burrell, Groom, and Brüssow in for Saints

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Northampton Saints have made four changes to their starting XV as they look to get back to winning ways in the Aviva Premiership against London Irish on Saturday.

The hosts will be looking to put last weekend’s frustrating away loss to Bath Rugby swiftly behind them, as they return to Franklin’s Gardens (kick-off 3pm) where they are unbeaten in 2018.

London Irish have only won once at the home of Saints since 2004, and technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney and interim head coach Alan Dickens will be keen to keep that record intact with Northampton looking to climb the league standings.

Three changes to Saints backline sees George North return from international duty on the wing, Nic Groom restored to the No.9 jersey, and inside centre Luther Burrell make his first appearance following a five-week injury layoff.

With Harry Mallinder retained by England throughout the week he is not involved in the matchday squad, and Piers Francis remains at fly-half.

The pack is almost identical to that which lined up at the Rec last weekend, with the front row unchanged ahead of Api Ratuniyarawa and skipper Christian Day in the engine room.

But there is one switch in a rejigged back-row; Jamie Gibson moves into the No.6 jersey to make room for Heinrich Brüssow, with the tenacious Springbok making his first Saints start at openside flanker.

Teimana Harrison remains at No.8 while there is room for Stephen Myler amongst the replacements, with Tom Wood and Cobus Reinach also moving to the bench.

And while London Irish have not won in the league since the opening day of the season, Gaffney is adamant that Saints will not make the mistake of underestimating their opponents.

“It's going to be a really important game and the most important thing for us is that we give London Irish respect,” he said.

“In rugby, whoever you are playing, you've got to show them respect and we will show them the utmost respect as we are only sitting two places above them in the table.

“We know this is a very important game for us; we're still aiming for the top six at worst and we've got to get our process right to go out and win games.”

SAINTS V LONDON IRISH TEAM NEWS
Aviva Premiership Rugby, Round 15
Franklin’s Gardens
Saturday 17th February, 2018
Kick-off: 3pm

SAINTSLONDON IRISH

15 Ahsee Tuala
14 George North
13 Rob Horne
12 Luther Burrell
11 Ben Foden
10 Piers Francis
9 Nic Groom

1 Campese Ma’afu
2 Mikey Haywood
3 Kieran Brookes
4 Api Ratuniyarawa
5 Christian Day (capt)
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Heinrich Brüssow
8 Teimana Harrison 

Replacements:
16 Reece Marshall
17 Francois van Wyk
18 Jamal Ford-Robinson
19 David Ribbans
20 Tom Wood
21 Cobus Reinach
22 Stephen Myler
23 Nafi Tuitavake 

15 James Marshall
14 Joe Cokanasiga
13 Tom Fowlie
12 Luke McLean
11 Alex Lewington
10 Greig Tonks
9 Piet van Zyl

1 Ben Franks
2 David Paice
3 Ollie Hoskins
4 Franco van der Merwe (capt)
5 Teofilo Paulo
6 Arno Botha
7 Max Northcote-Green
8 Ofisa Treviranus

Replacements:
16 Dave Porecki
17 Harry Elrington
18 Petrus Du Plessis
19 Sebastian De Chaves
20 Conor Gilsenan
21 Scott Steele
22 Tommy Bell
23 Aseli Tikoirotuma

 

Injury update:
Alex Waller and James Craig are unavailable for selection.

posteamteam namepldwdlfadifftftatblbpts
9
Northampton Saints
Northampton SaintsNOR228014509645-13664805643
12
London Irish
London IrishLIR223019385651-26642853722
Form Guide

Form

LLLLL

Last match

Lost to Harlequins 29-49

Past meeting

Won 27-3
Full Time
Northampton Saints
Northampton Saints
25
London Irish
London Irish
17