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Rugby

SAINTS 15 L IRISH 9 Saints scrap to win over Exiles

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

The opening quarter was scoreless, but it was not without chances, especially for Saints.


Jamie Elliott had the ball bounce just that bit too long after chasing his own kick, after Calum Clark had won possession back from an Irish mistake.


There was a double fumble within quick succession close to the whitewash, too, as the hosts sought to reward their own stout defence that had seen Ken Pisi bundle Andrew Fenby out five metres from the line.


The play leading up to mistakes had certainly been promising, not least the attack that brought James Wilson within a couple of metres of the line, the full back making the most of having a man outside him to ghost through the defensive line.


The forwards had made 20 metres in a maul to set up the attack, but after Saints went to the corner following an Irish infringement - the defender somewhat lucky not to see yellow for a deliberate knock on that close to his line - instead of keeping it tight they sent play into midfield, only to see George Pisi fumble a low pass.


But still Saints came, winning the ball back at a ruck, only to have Wilson fumble a more straightforward pass in the corner. Then Tom Stephenson lost the ball in a desperate tackle over the visitors’ line after Shane Geraghty had made a mess of George Pisi’s kick ahead.


These errors were certainly frustrating, almost as much as the sight of London Irish players receiving treatment at regular intervals through the half. But this perhaps explains why Saints were intent on raising the tempo at every opportunity, and while Kahn Fotuali’i would be guilty of a couple of over-ambitious passes later in the half his quickly tapped penalty was key in setting up the opening score just before the half-hour.


The scrum-half stepped and turned, Phil Dowson trucked through a gap, and with Irish’s defence at sixes and sevens Myler sent a cross-field kick to the unmarked Ken Pisi on the far side, the winger finishing superbly inches inside the dead ball line.


Myler’s conversion from the touchline was just as impressive, but the greasy ball ensured that handling at times was less so, a dropped Wilson pass giving Irish a scrum in a promising position from which they eventually scored through a Geraghty penalty.


Geraghty also had the last chance of the half after Irish had mauled dangerously in the home 22, only to draw his penalty left of the sticks.


However what got the home fans’ ire up was referee Andrew Small’s decision to send both Salesi Ma’afu and Tom Court to the sin bin on the stroke of the break. The rationale was Ma’afu having been stamped on after holding Court back, and it ensured that both teams started the second half down a man.


The first half had certainly seen enough missed chances to last a while, and it took seven minutes for there to be another, Ken Pisi fumbling Fotuali’i’s pass five metres short after another powerful maul had left some one-on-ones down a big blindside.


Irish weren’t immune to the handling errors, though, and while Fenby was relatively unlucky to have been ruled to have fumbled a George Pisi grubber it nevertheless gave Saints a scrum, and in turn a penalty.


Once more they went to the corner, and after the drive brought another penalty - and a yellow card for Tom Guest to boot - Myler went to the sidelines and the lineout that created a try for Sam Dickinson, the number eight coming up with the ball after Irish’s pack had fragmented.


Irish’s replies came courtesy of two superb Geraghty penalties, with Myler answering with one of his own. But while the scoring opportunities were few and far between, TMO Sean Davey was being called into action repeatedly to check possible instances of foul play.


No more cards were forthcoming, but the action was fitful, that was until Irish put a string of phases together that took them metre by metre towards the home line. That was until some heroic defence not just held them out but win a turnover, too, and while the clearance this brought was only temporary, there was more to come after a series of Irish penalties had been sent to touch.


The last of these saw Saints drive Irish back to the sidelines, and from their own lineout power and patience took them fully 30 metres upfield. And while there would be a couple of late Irish attacks from deep the final maul showcased why Saints are top of the table.


TEAMS

SAINTS Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi, Stephenson, Elliott; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller, Haywood, Ma’afu, Manoa, C Day, Clark, Dowson (capt), Dickinson


Reps - Williams, E Waller, Denman, Craig, Harrison, Dickson, Olver, Tuala


L IRISH Fenby; Ojo, Mulchrone, Sheridan, Fowlie; Geraghty, Steele; Court, Paice, Aulika, Skivington (capt), Sinclair, Treviranus, Gilsenan, Guest


Reps - Stevens, Halavatau, Palframan, Cox, Narraway, O’Leary, Brophy-Clews, Lewington


TIMELINE

26mins SAINTS Try K Pisi Con Myler 7-0

34mins IRISH Pen Geraghty 7-3

40mins SAINTS Yellow card Ma’afu

40mins IRISH Yellow card Court

40mins IRISH Miss pen Geraghty

HALF-TIME SAINTS 7 IRISH 3

53mins IRISH Yellow card Guest

54mins SAINTS Try Dickinson 12-3

59mins IRISH Pen Geraghty 12-6

65mins SAINTS Pen Myler 15-6

67mins IRISH Pen Geraghty 15-9

FULL-TIME SAINTS 15 IRISH 9