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The Aviva Premiership clash was a scrappy affair for the most part but it was the Exiles who held their nerve the better to claim four valuable points.
Irish settled into the encounter well with Tongan forwards Chris Hala’ufia and Leo Halavatau crashing the ball up into the Northampton defenders giving the Exiles good attacking front foot ball.
Tom Homer opened the scoring after eight minutes of play with a well struck penalty kick from 35 metres out after Northampton were penalised for being offside.
Former Exiles fly half Ryan Lamb steadied his early nerves with a penalty goal of his own after 12 minutes of play to level the scores at 3 points all.
Dan Bowden carved out an early attacking opening for Irish, slicing his way through the Northampton defence. However support didn’t arrive soon enough and the Exiles were penalised for holding onto the ball.
The game started to open up early into the second quarter of the game as both sides started to find gaps appearing in each other’s defence as they struggled to keep up with the games high tempo.
Northampton finished the first half the stronger with Lamb slotting another penalty to give the hosts a three point lead at half time. Irish showed assurance in defence as Northampton struggled to find a way through.
Irish lost prop forward Leo Halavatau to the sin bin just before half time meaning Irish started the first ten minutes of the second stanza with only 14 players. You would not have known it as Northampton failed to take the acendancy with their one man advantage and it was Tom Homer who levelled the scores with his second successive penalty on the 50 minute mark to end a good 10 minute spell for the Exiles.
Irish continued to play with the ball in hand and it was the destructive Tongan number 8 who broke through four tackles to put Irish on the front foot before offloading to Topsy Ojo who was tackled just short of the line. From the resulting quick ball Allinson passed to Bowden who then threw a long looping spin pass to Nick Kennedy out on the wing who finished in the corner. It was a try that the Irish play deserved and put the visitor’s five points in front.
Bryn Evans came on in the 71st minute to make his first London Irish appearance with Irish on the back foot. The pressure on the Irish pack finally told as referee Martin Fox went under the posts to award the penalty try. Stephen Myler added the conversion to put the Saints 13-11 ahead with six minutes to go.
Irish were determined not to lose a third close encounter and with five minutes left played some great attacking rugby with man of the match Chris Hala’ufia crashing through Northampton defenders before the referee penalised the Saints player for playing the ball on the floor. Tom Homer stepped up on 78 minutes and held his nerve to kick the match winning penalty.
Irish kept the ball tight from the resulting kick off until 80 minutes were up on the clock and Dan Bowden found the ball in his hands and ran off into touch.
Irish welcome Newcastle Falcons to Madejski Stadium next Saturday. Tickets are available so come out and show your support. The corner of Exiles fans were fantastic today so thank you for coming out and showing your support.
Score sequence: (London Irish first) 3-0; 3-3; 3-6, 6-6, 11-6, 11-13, 14-13
Scorers: London Irish: Penalties; Homer 3; Tries; Kennedy; Northampton Saints: Penalties: Lamb 2; Tries: Penalty try; Conversions: Myler
15. Jon Clarke; 14. Paul Diggin; 13. Tom May; 12. James Downey; 11. Noah Cato; 10. Ryan Lamb (rep: Stephen Myler, 57); 9. Martin Roberts; 1. Alex Waller (rep: Paul Doran-Jones, 50); 2. Brett Sharman; 3. Tom Mercey (rep: Brian Mujati, 57); 4. Samu Manoa (rep: James Craig, 65); 5. Christi 6. Calum Clark; 7. Ben Nutley; 8. Phil Dowson (Captain)
Replacements: 16. Mike Hayward; 17. Paul Doran-Jones; 18. Brian Mujati; 19. Mark Sorenson; 20. James Craig; 21. Stuart Commins; 22. Stephen Myler; 23. Scott Armstrong
London Irish Team
15. Tom Homer; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Jonathan Joseph; 12. Steve Shingler; 11. Adam Thompstone; 10. Dan Bowden; 9. Darren Allinson (rep: Paul Hodgson, 67); 1. Clarke Dermody (Captain) (rep: Leo Halavatau, 67); 2. David Paice (rep: James Buckland, 67); 3. Leo Halavatau (sin bin 40-50; rep: David Sisi, 50); 4. Nick Kennedy; 5. Matt Garvey (rep: Bryn Evans, 71); 6. Ed Siggery (rep: Dave Sisi, 40, rep: Max Lahiff, 41)); 7. Alex Gray; 8. Chris Hala’ufia
Replacements: 16. David Paice; 17. Max Lahiff; 18. Mark George; 19. Bryn Evans; 20. Dave Sisi; 21. Guy Armitage; 22. Anthony Watson; 23. Paul Hodgson
Referee: Martin Fox