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MATCH REPORT Saints hit their stride to power back into top four

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Jamie Elliott will grab the headlines for a second week running with three more tries, but after a fortnight in which the forwards beat Worcester and the backs carved up Bath, this win over London Irish was a genuine team effort.

The forwards dominated their Exile opposites, particular in the scrum and maul, while the backs put the ball through the hands with pace and accuracy, taking full advantage of the firm pitch and perfect atmospheric conditions.

Nevertheless while Saints' 26-point margin of victory was certainly comfortable they didn't have things all their own way, especially in the first half. Not only did the Exiles take an early lead through Tom Homer's sixth-minute penalty but with two more efforts from the full back after the half-hour they also threatened to take a narrow lead into the interval.

But if one thing stood out for the Saints it was their uncanny ability to score immediately after conceding points. Homer's first penalty rewarded a spell of pressure which had begun when Saints had failed to collect Ian Humphreys' 22-metre drop-out.

The ball hit the deck, and with Bryn Evans and Jon Fisher making their metres a little too easy for the hosts' liking the Exiles came within inches of the whitewash. Pat Phibbs was held short, and given the speed of the attack three points seemed something of a let off for the Saints.

Two minutes later this feeling was only enhanced. Samu Manoa's kick off recovery was just the start, as Saints went through the phases, Elliott found himself unmarked and Stephen Myler fired out the long pass. There was still plenty to do, but just as he had done with Nick Abendanon the previous week Elliott powered through Shane Geraghty's attempted tackle to score in the left corner.

Myler converted, but missed a subsequent penalty, and for a time Irish had most of the play. Marland Yarde lived up to his reputation by looking for action regularly and making one searing run down the left wing, and a tactical kicking battle went the visitors' way when Elliott tried to run back a Geraghty up-and-under only to be isolated and concede a penalty.

This brought Homer's second shot, and the third was not long in coming from a scrum close to the home line. Now two points down, time was running down quickly for Saints in the first half, but one final attack brought a penalty, a lineout and a rolling maul finished off by Manoa's sneak over the line.

It was just reward for the American, who had an impressive game, and also set the tone for a second half in which Saints played some of their best rugby of the season so far.

They should have increased their five-point lead within 90 seconds of the restart, but any blushes George Pisi may have had for fumbling the ball with the line at his mercy were soon forgotten as Saints maintained the pressure to score their third try a couple of minutes later.

After making a mess of the Irish scrum and winning a penalty, the home pack turned their attention to the lineout. Phil Dowson won the ball at the back, Soane Tonga'uiha peeled from the front and turned on the power to crash through Yarde for the score.

Saints had come out of the blocks firing, and they maintained their tempo with some scintillating play. The forwards struck first, GJ Van Velze at the back of an irrepressible maul for the bonus points score. And then the backs took over, Dom Waldouck bouncing off Geraghty before combining with James Wilson to put Elliott over in the left corner.

Despite now facing a 24-point deficit, the Exiles showed plenty of spirit and determination to score a consolation try through centre Guy Armitage. And while they finished the game on the front foot, props Leo Halavatau and Jerry Yanuyanutawa combining to take them close, it was Saints who had the last word on the scoreboard, Ryan Lamb's lovely chip into space allowing Elliott to finish off his excellent afternoon and raise the roof.

However that was not the only action at the Gardens on this sunny Saturday. With the first team having set the tone, the Under-18s took over with a seven-try, 56-10 Premiership Rugby Academies League win over Newcastle Falcons.

Alex Wootton led the way with three tries, with Jack Allcock not far behind with a second half brace. Harry Mallinder also crossed the whitewash, as did Harry Betts, with Sam Olver adding six conversions and two penalties.

There will be a full match report from the Under-18s game, plus highlights and reaction, on the Saints' website on Monday.


6mins IRISH Pen Homer 0-3

8mins SAINTS Try Elliott Con Myler 7-3

19mins SAINTS Miss pen Myler

33mins IRISH Pen Homer 7-6

38mins IRISH Pen Homer 7-9

40mins SAINTS Try Manoa Con Myler 14-9


43mins SAINTS Try Tonga'uiha Con Myler 21-9

53mins SAINTS Try Van Velze Con Myler 28-9

56mins SAINTS Try Elliott 33-9

73mins IRISH Try Armitage 33-14

75mins SAINTS Try Elliott Con Lamb 40-14


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