It’s fifth vs sixth in the Gallagher Premiership at Franklin’s Gardens this weekend, and we’ve crunched the numbers ahead of Northampton Saints’ Round 17 clash against London Irish with the race for the top four heating up...
A great deal of Irish’s attacking threat comes from their lively back three, and it’s no surprise to see the trio of Tom Parton, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Ben Loader in the Gallagher Premiership’s top 25 metre-makers.
But the hosts also have plenty of firepower in this particular department, with Ollie Sleightholme in a rich vein of form after seven tries in his last five appearances, Tom Collins back in the mix after scoring the winner against Dragons, and George Furbank celebrating a half century of appearances in Black, Green and Gold.
In defence, Irish make more tackles than any other side on average and the evergreen Blair Cowan of course leads the way. The Scotland international – who will play his 150th game for the Exiles on Friday – makes an impressive 18 tackles per 80 minutes, the best return of anyone to play more than 250 minutes in 2020/21.
Ball retention might well be key to the Exiles’ hopes at Franklin’s Gardens, with Declan Kidney’s side notching ten tries after the seventh phase of play, a total only Exeter Chiefs can better.
On the other side of the ball, almost 40% of the tries Irish have conceded come from first-phase plays, a percentage that matches those scored by Saints’ off the back of set-piece.
The hosts are most vulnerable within the first three phases in defence, having let by two-thirds of tries in this period.
Following the past couple of weeks in the Challenge Cup, Saints’ discipline will be under the microscope as they look to clean their act up for the league’s return.
In the Gallagher Premiership, the penalty count against the men in Black, Green and Gold has been fairly good. The concession of 11.5 pens on average is the third lowest in the league behind Bristol and Worcester.
Irish are toward the other end of the scale, conceding two more penalties per game (13.5).
Yet while there is a discrepancy in penalties coughed up, the two teams are even when it comes to yellow cards, both sides losing a man to the bin once every other game on average. The Exiles have, however, seen two red cards in addition.