26 March 2023
London Irish Director of Rugby Declan Kidney has emphasised the crucial nature of a collective approach as the 2022/23 season winds up over the next month, with Irish in the hunt for a coveted play-off spot.
Kidney’s Exiles took a big step forward in search of a first post-season berth since 2009 with a try bonus point victory over fellow contenders Northampton Saints, ending 37-22 in the St. Patrick’s Party fixture.
Tries from So’otala Fa’aso’o, Tom Pearson, Ben Loader and Chunya Munga, as well as 17 points from the boot of Paddy Jackson, secured Irish’s first league win over Saints in three years, with Kidney stating, “all aspects” of his side’s performance were “on point.”
The Irishman testifies that the attitude of the squad in the days after last week’s Premiership Rugby Cup final set the tone for the reversal of fortunes on Saturday evening.
“We’re happy enough, it was a good day and I thought we played well,” Kidney said.
“It was a proper game of rugby with two good sides going at it, we probably had more opportunities that we took over Northampton which made a big difference in the match.
“They came at us very strongly in the second quarter onwards into the third and fourth, but I thought our defence stood strong.
“All aspects of our game we on point, and that’s a credit to all of the coaches and the players to do that but also to the cup team from last Sunday.
“The way they turned up for work on Tuesday was phenomenal; they went straight into it, didn’t feel sorry for themselves and the way they helped the boys prepare for Saints was a really strong mental effort.
“It just shows how much the Club means to them.”
Kidney directed a calm outlook when posed with Irish’s chances for the remainder of the campaign, testifying that only a tight group will keep the winning momentum rolling.
“There’s nothing expected of us, we have said we’ll enjoy the journey and take each moment as it comes.
“I’m sure if you went down to any of the betting offices you wouldn’t get many saying we’ll be in the top four with three games to go, but what about it.
“We enjoyed being in the final last week but we didn’t enjoy the result, we have to learn how to win and only staying together will do that.
“I knew on Wednesday nothing had to be said, I knew that we were always going to come back and give that level of effort, whether or not we were good enough to win was another thing, but we were.
“The preparation was top class and the execution went well today, I can’t speak strongly enough of the whole unit because it takes massive generosity for that to happen.”
Kudos was also duly awarded to Irish’s dominant loose forward Tom Pearson, whose bustling converted effort doubled the Exiles’ tally in the first quarter to 14 points.
Pearson, who was awarded the Player of the Match, also managed 45 running metres, 10 tackles, five defenders beaten, two offloads and clean breaks apiece, on top of a turnover win.
With the 23-year-old rising to the occasion, Kidney described the value of having Pearson within the ranks at the Club.
“He was all right, wasn’t he,” the Director of Rugby quipped.
“Tom [Pearson] is a high energy player, if he keeps playing like that then we’ll be delighted.
“We don’t put pressure on him, he will have watched the Six Nations and was up against lads playing in the Six Nations, so he was always wanting to pull out a big performance on a stage like that.
“It’s one thing about wanting to do it, it’s another about pulling it off – Tom did that today.”
Having won six of their last seven Premiership ties, Irish perhaps frustratingly are without a competitive fixture until 23rd April where they travel north of the capital to take on rivals and pace-setters, Saracens.
Coming together as a group in order to keep competitive levels up will be the key to Irish’s preparation in absence from the pitch in the coming weeks.
Kidney concluded: “We have the challenge of having four weeks to go to our next match, Exeter will have EPCR games and the Premiership to keep them battle-hardened but each part of the season has different focuses.
“We’d still love to be playing EPCR games, there were a few points that went begging that could have kept us in it but that will be part of the learning and growth we’ll examine at the end of the year.
“Now’s not the time to do that, we talk about winning the moment so we will enjoy the moment now too, and we’ll try and find a way to be ready for heading to the league leaders on their own patch.
“This is where the collective becomes really important.”