London Irish moved into the top four of the Gallagher Premiership with a try bonus point 37-22 victory over fellow play-off chasers Northampton Saints at the Gtech Community Stadium.

Irish’s back-row duo So’otala Fa’aso’o and Tom Pearson would bag the Exiles’ first two scores, with Saints retorting through their own loose forward Juarno Augustus for the home outfit to lead 17-10 at the half.

Ben Loader would open the half with a stunning try, Fa’aso’o winning the turnover with a crunching tackle for Loader to race away, but Saints would reply with a score from Tommy Freeman.

Chunya Munga put the result in the control of Irish, Jackson’s drop goal and penalty combination only furthering the west Londoners comfort to take their sixth win in seven games and a first Premiership win over Saints in three years.

Tom Pearson’s jackal turnover set the tone for an industrious and proactive Irish side in the first five minutes, a subsequent breakdown infringement from Saints offering a chance for Paddy Jackson to go at the posts but the attempt went awry.

Saints pre-binding saw Irish win a penalty in a similar area, the Exiles opting for touch this time, working through the phases to the right edge with the advantage before So’otala Fa’aso’o bundled through, Jackson converting.

Despite Irish being pinged for not rolling away, Northampton played on but were met by former Saint Api Ratuniyarawa in two big hits, Fin Smith splitting the posts with the subsequent penalty when play was brought back.

Irish’s attacking impetus faded for the time being, being tasked with defending a rolling maul that needed sacking – Tom Pearson was on hand to do just that with his side winning the following scrum.

The Exiles’ budding back-rower would be next to dot down, Irish working of the lineout and with a recycled ball, possession was handed to Pearson who showed brute strength to beat four defenders and score – an incredible few minutes for the youngster!

The Gtech was absolutely rocking, Irish breaking down the left with Lucio Cinti and Ollie Hassell-Collins combining for the latter to nudge through, but Saints reclaimed the ball in the goal area.

Irish would however seal off a later ruck and Saints were threatening with their red zone entry, working their way up to the five-metre line before the home side were penalised by referee Anthony Woodthorpe for not rolling.

Saints came again with quick ball around the fringes and a change in direction saw Juarno Augustus cross the whitewash, Smith adding the extras.

Irish were back in control in the loose, Ben Loader fending off James Ramm and his teammates passing excellently out the back before they were stopped by Tommy Freeman’s deliberate knock-on, the English wing seeing yellow.

With an excellent Jackson territory-absorbing nudge, Irish’s throw-in was then retrieved by Benhard Janse van Rensburg but the catch-and-drive sequence was held up.

Oliver Hoskins’ penalty win at the put-in gave a platform for Irish to get up the park, and after the ball going through several recycles, Northampton killed the ball illegally at the breakdown and Jackson added three more to his tally before the break.

The Boys in Green returned from the sheds in unbelievable fashion, Fa’aso’o sacking Fraser Dingwall with the ball going loose to Janse van Rensburg, feeding fellow back Ben Loader who raced away down the right wing from his own half to score!

Phil Dowson’s men were in desperate need of a try now 14 points down, Lewis Ludlam being met by Fa’aso’o and Ratuniyarawa in contact before Hoskins jackalled possession back.

Saints conceding a breakdown penalty and Jackson breaking into the 22 from the boot nearly saw London Irish score a bonus point try, referee Woodthorpe unintentionally caught in the line of fire but Irish would knock-on after the subsequent scrum.

The defensive set from Irish when Saints played through the hands was solid, Hassell-Collins putting in a crunching hit on Tom Collins before Pearson’s over-the-ball work won back the ball for his team to rapturous applause.

A great Hassell-Collins exit from the left peg preceded a near miss for his side close to the whitewash, Loader searing away but the Exiles were undone by an unfortunate spill.

Tommy Freeman would reduce the deficit with a smart snipe from just inside Irish’s half, racing away to score and Hutchinson to convert to make it a seven-point game.

It was try time for Irish not long after though, Saints’ ill-discipline at the breakdown seeing Jackson go for the corner from his own half, and the Boys in Green stormed through with the maul but were brought down.

Replacement Chunya Munga would touch down around the fringes with Jackson converting the vital try bonus point score, Irish 31-17 up at the time.

Despite Kidney’s men relinquishing another opportunity to score with another escape down the edge, Paddy Jackson would send through a drop goal from halfway to take the game beyond two scores.

Northampton would go up the other end of the field and reap the rewards of their territory through Lewis Ludlam, Hutchinson missing the kick through a great effort from Loader to attempt to charge the kick.

Joe Powell’s 50:22 kick after fielding a loose Saints lineout evaporated the pressure for Irish in the closing stages as the home outfit’s lead stood at 12.

Jackson, top point scorer in the Premiership, would account for 17 of Irish’s points on the evening with a stunning display and he would round off the game for Declan Kidney’s London Irish.

The advantage was to be extended to 15 with a penalty won in midfield off a maul formed by Irish, Saints illegally bringing it down for Jackson to conclude the encounter with a second penalty to project his side into the top four.


Score sequence (London Irish first): 5-0, 7-0, 7-3, 12-3, 14-3, 14-8, 14-10, 17-10, 22-10, 24-10, 24-15, 24-17, 29-17, 31-17, 34-17, 34-22, 37-22.

London Irish: Tries: Fa’aso’o (8), Pearson (27), Loader (43), Munga (66); Conversions: Jackson (9) (28)(44) (67); Penalties: Jackson (39) (79); Drop Goals: Jackson (72).

Northampton Saints: Tries: Augustus (31), Freeman (61), Ludlam (73); Conversions: Smith (32), Hutchinson (62); Penalties: Smith (11); Yellow Cards: Freeman (35).


London Irish:

15 Ben Loader, 14 Lucio Cinti (Arundell 63), 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Hugh O’Sullivan (Powell 53); 1 Danilo Fischetti (Haffar 72), 2 Agustín Creevy (Willemse 53), 3 Oliver Hoskins (Chawatama 57), 4 Api Ratuniyarawa (Munga 56), 5 Rob Simmons, 6 Matt Rogerson (c) (González 57), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 So’otala Fa’aso’o (Cunningham-South 63).


16 Mike Willemse, 17 Tarek Haffar, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Chunya Munga, 20 Juan Martín González, 21 Chandler Cunningham-South, 22 Joe Powell, 23 Henry Arundell.


Northampton Saints:

15 George Furbank, 14 James Ramm, 13 Fraser Dingwall (Litchfield 75), 12 Rory Hutchinson, 11 Tommy Freeman, 10 Fin Smith (Collins 50 HIA), 9 Alex Mitchell (James 70); 1 Alex Waller (Waller 62), 2 Robbie Smith (Cruse 23), 3 Trevor Davison (Hill 33), 4 David Ribbans, 5 Alex Moon (Scott-Young 62), 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 7 Lewis Ludlam (c), 8 Juarno Augustus (Graham 70).


16 Tom Cruse, 17 Ethan Waller, 18 Paul Hill, 19 Angus Scott-Young, 20 Sam Graham, 21 Tom James, 22 Tom Litchfield, 23 Tom Collins


Attendance: 13,543

Referee: Mr Anthony Woodthorpe

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