The Madejski Stadium has traditionally been one of the grounds that the Saints have not got to grips with, and even through London Irish’s struggles in recent years the Aviva Premiership clashes in Reading have generally been close.
This year the Exiles came into the game with a visible bounce in their step, both from their Round 4 win at Welford Road and their Round 3 classic against Saracens that went down to the last 90 seconds.
And while Saints would dominate long periods, especially in the first half, they just could not shake the dogged London Irish outfit loose, for whom Shane Geraghty kicked four out of his five attempts at goal.
The former Saint was the Exiles’ fulcrum, and although he wore the number 12 shirt he popped up at first receiver regularly and took on the kicking burden, both tactically and from the tee.
So it was somewhat ironic that he would also have a hand in the contest’s pivotal moment, standing off Luther Burrell as the centre kept on running towards the home whitewash. Burrell may have had a man outside him, but Geraghty refused to make him make a decision as to whether to run or pass, and by the time he did it was too late.
The TMO was called into action, but it was clearly a try, and the seven points this brought were also the eventual difference between the teams.
That score came in the 34th minute, and while before that the only three points had come from Stephen Myler’s right boot it was not for a lack of effort from either side. There was plenty of intent, and flashes where a dangerous move would threaten, but the error rate crept up and bar Burrell’s try there were precious few opportunities from either side.
Saints would also have the best chance of the second half, and had Burrell’s pass to Ben Foden gone to hand they would have put the contest to bed with what would have been a fine try.
But instead they had to rely on Myler’s accuracy to negate that of Geraghty, and while Mallinder said he was satisfied by the result he knows that there is plenty of work still to do.
“I’m satisfied,” he told SaintsTV. “A win’s a win, especially away from home. There were little parts of our game which can always be improved and worked on, but I think we dominated the first half. In the second half we should have got out of our half a little bit more accurately, and a little bit of ill-discipline gave them momentum, but Stephen Myler kicked his goals and we ran the clock down at the end.
“We had a couple of chances at the end of the first half and then later in the second half when we just didn’t score. You always have to watch London Irish on the counter-attack and on the interceptions, but I don’t think that they really threatened our line, so I was very pleased with our defence.”
Mallinder also said that plenty of credit had to be paid to London Irish for the way they stayed in the contest, and in how they have developed into one of the Aviva Premiership’s more dangerous teams in the opening stages of the season.
“They’re a good team; something we said before the game,” he added. “They’ve worked hard on their set-piece and have some good players out wide. They deserve to be where they are.”
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14mins SAINTS Pen Myler 0-3
34mins SAINTS Try Burrell Con Myler 0-10
39mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler
HALF-TIME IRISH 0 SAINTS 10
42mins IRISH Pen Geraghty 3-10
49mins IRISH Pen Geraghty 6-10
52mins SAINTS Pen Myler 6-13
55mins IRISH Pen Geraghty 9-13
59mins SAINTS Pen Myler 9-16
63mins IRISH Pen Geraghty 12-16
65mins IRISH Miss DG Geraghty
67mins IRISH Miss pen Geraghty
78mins SAINTS Pen Myler 12-19
FULL-TIME IRISH 12 SAINTS 19