Saints put on impressive display to thwart London Irish
Northampton Saints secured their place at the top of the Aviva Premiership after beating London Irish 35-23, with a scintillating first-half performance leaving the Exiles eight points adrift.
Tries from Jamie Elliott, Jon Clarke and a brace from Paul Diggin plus a good kicking display from No10 Stephen Myler were enough to see off the threat from a wounded Exiles.
The Saints demolished their opposition with a passage that saw them score 24 points in 17 minutes before half time in front of a full house at Franklin’s Gardens.
The only negatives to arise from this deserved victory were injuries to props Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati with Paul Diggin also carried off on a stretcher.
The injuries distrupted the hosts’ rhythm and led to a flattering scoreline although London Irish were ahead first as Ryan Lamb landed two drop goals to give the visitors a six-point lead.
Stephen Myler responded with a 30 metre penalty to get his side their first points on the board. Lamb meanwhile failed to land his third drop goal attempt between the posts.
And this crucial miss led to the Saints’ transformation into an unstoppable machine and their complete domination for the remainder of the half.
It was sparked by a bursting run down the wing from 18-year-old Elliott, who was brought down a metre from the line. Elliott later scored his second try in two Premiership starts after some patient build up, which Myler brilliantly converted from the touchline.
A minute later the Saints were leading 17-6 as Diggin collected a kick beyond the Irish defence from Brett Sharman, which Myler again imperiously converted.
Lamb’s first penalty was not enough to keep London Irish in the game as Myler inflicted more damage with a quick three-point riposte.
The Saints then put the game beyond doubt just before the half-time whistle as prop Tonga’uiha offloaded to Clarke for the centre to run 20 metres and breeze past Delon Armitage’s poor miss tackle.
Scrum-half Ryan Powell almost got his own try in the scond half but was stopped five metres short. His breakaway from a scrum 30 metres out ensured his side came away with a bonus point as he set up Diggin for the Saints’ fourth try.
Chris Hala’ufia and Topsy Ojo’s tries for Irish were scant consolation as Irish will now concentrate on avoiding three defeats on the trot. They face champions Leceister on Saturday.
Meanwhile, its top versus bottom as Northampton play Leeds Carnegie on Sunday as the former look to emulate Harlequins who thumped the Yorkshire side 51-18 last week.