Fixture: Northampton Saints v London Irish
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 3
Date: Saturday 2nd October 2021
Stadium: cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens
Buoyed by Sunday’s sensational comeback against Sale Sharks at the BCS, London Irish will be looking to maintain their momentum when they take on Northampton Saints in Round 3 of the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday afternoon.
The Exiles took three points in a swashbuckling draw against Sale last weekend, overcoming a 17-point half-time deficit – and narrowly missing the chance for maximum points when Paddy Jackson’s late penalty struck an upright!
Saturday’s opponents, Northampton Saints, head into the Round 3 encounter with a 100 per-cent win record so far, matching only Harlequins and front-runners Leicester Tigers’ early season form.
Saints have won their first two league games for the second time in the past three seasons, beating Gloucester Rugby in their opening fixture and most recently overcoming Exeter Chiefs at Sandy Park, with George Furbank’s late penalties securing a 26-24 win.
The last time these two sides met, in mid-April, Saints came out on top in a high-scoring affair, securing a try bonus point in a 44-26 win. The reverse fixture was cancelled owing to Covid-19.
The Boss – Chris Boyd
Chris Boyd was confirmed as the new Director of Rugby at Northampton Saints for the 2018/19 campaign, following on from Alan Gaffney’s interim spell in the technical area.
The Kiwi coach arrived from Super Rugby side the Hurricanes, where he won back-to-back New Zealand Conference Championships, with a Super Rugby title in his second term in charge.
He dispelled any doubts in his maiden season after a decade of success under Jim Mallinder in Northampton, by reaching the play-offs for the first time in four seasons, and winning the inaugural Premiership Cup against Saracens in front of a home crowd.
The 63 year-old’s notable past accolades include being the Defensive Coach of the 2011 Tongan World Cup side that triumphed over France in the pool stages – and leading Wellington Lions to the 2013 ITM Cup final, eventually losing to Canterbury 29-13.
One to Watch – George Furbank
British and Irish Lions duo Dan Biggar and Courtney Lawes are both likely to be available for selection this weekend, but the talents of George Furbank will remain in sharp focus before Saturday’s match.
The 24 year-old Northampton Academy graduate put in a man-of-the-match display against Gloucester on opening weekend of the new season with a try, conversion and a part to play in all of the Green, Black and Yellow’s three other tries.
Furbank’s versatility was recently commended by fellow Saint Alex Waller, who also stated his teammate has developed into ‘a top-class player over the past few seasons.’
The four-time capped England international stepped into the fly-half position in James Grayson’s absence, slotting two late penalties at Sandy Park, to continue his tremendous run of form.
Classic Encounter – London Irish 32-27 Northampton Saints – Guinness Premiership, March 22nd 2009
London Irish were 32-27 victors over Northampton Saints at the Madejski Stadium with the annual St.Patrick’s Day festivities in full flow during the 2008/09 season.
18-year-old Tom Homer was described as a ‘metronomic’ kicker by his Director of Rugby Toby Booth, as the youngster contributed 22 points from the boot with a 100 per-cent kick-success rate.
On an afternoon where both sides traded blow for blow, Homer’s opposite number – former Exile and fan favourite Barry Everitt – added five of his own on his Reading homecoming, with Bruce Reihana contributing an impressive 17-point return.
Three successive penalties from Homer laid the foundations of an Irish fightback late on in the second period, that culminated in the all-important late penalty try to ensure the four points stayed in Berkshire.
Tries: Adam Thompstone, penalty try
Conversions: Tom Homer (2)
Penalties: Tom Homer (6)
Tries: Bruce Reihana, Roger Wilson
Conversions: Barry Everitt
Penalties: Barry Everitt, Bruce Reihana (4)
Following his side’s win against Exeter, Director of Rugby Chris Boyd, spoke of his pride at the performance of his men, particularly at the set-piece.
“It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, but we’re certainly happy with the four points here,” he said.
“We showed good guts for long periods of time. I was very, very pleased with our lineout defence – both defending the drive from Exeter, and also nicking two or three off the top of the lineout.”
Despite Saints’ impressive start, Boyd also stated the need to extend their form ahead of the visit of London Irish.
“The question that we keep asking ourselves is, ‘can we play consistently?’ And time will tell – we’ve had a couple of good wins now to start the season, but one swallow doesn’t make a summer by any means, and all the games are tough so we just need to keep performing.”
(Preview compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan)