|Northampton: (10) 38|
|Tries: Augustus, Sleightholme, Mitchell, Furbank Cons: Grayson 2, Furbank Pens: Grayson 2, Furbank 2|
|London Irish: (0) 22|
|Tries: Joseph, Penalty, Hassell-Collins Cons: Englefield Pens: Jackson|
Northampton got their first win of the season as they beat London Irish 38-22.
Juarno Augustus’ try was the highlight of a 62-minute first half which saw Irish end with 12 men after yellow cards for Adam Pearson, Henry Arundell and Rob Simmons, with several injuries.
Irish survived their period with three fewer men, but Ollie Sleightholme and Alex Mitchell scored soon after.
Will Joseph crossed for Irish before they got a penalty try, but George Furbank’s score ended any Exiles hopes.
Ollie Hassell-Collins added a last-second consolation try for the visitors but Phil Dowson earned his first win since taking over as Northampton director of rugby, while Irish suffered defeat for the first time -having beaten financially stricken Worcester 45-14 last week.
Saints managed it without Wales fly-half Dan Biggar, who had been due to skipper the side for the first time but missed out through illness.
Augustus crossed in the corner after some superb build-up play by scrum-half Mitchell, who chipped over the defence before a perfect pass to the South African.
Injuries to Irish pair Facundo Gigena and Adam Coleman saw lengthy stoppages before the visitors ended the half with 12 men after a dramatic finish to the period – first Adam Pearson was yellow-carded after a high hit in the build-up to a disallowed try by Arundell, which ended with James Grayson kicking a Saints penalty.
Arundell was then sin-binned for preventing a try-scoring opportunity, and Rob Simmons was given 10 minutes’ rest for collapsing a maul in the final moments.
Despite being three men down Irish actually out-scored Saints thanks to Paddy Jackson’s penalty soon after the break – but at 15-a-side Sleightholme cruised in after a nice team move, before an excellent dummy from Mitchell opened up a gap in the Exiles defence and Grayson added another penalty.
But Joseph went in at the corner after a lovely break by Irish, before a deliberate knock-on Grayson with 14 minutes left saw him go to the sin-bin and referee Luke Pearce award a penalty try to bring the Exiles back into it.
However, Furbank’s penalty moved Saints 13 points clear, before he went over under the posts after good work by Alex Coles to seal the bonus-point victory, and then added another penalty before Hassell-Collins’ very late try.
Northampton director of rugby Phil Dowson:
“We didn’t really take advantage of the numerical advantage.
“We weren’t clinical enough, we didn’t keep hold of the ball and we forced things, which is frustrating but what we did do is we stuck to our guns when it got back to 15 apiece and we managed to get on top.
“Big parts of our game came back, but it is tough playing with 12 guys – we’ve done it in the past a couple of seasons ago and it does take it out of you.
“That fatigue element was also part of it in the last 20 minutes. We could have been way better in that area, but we got our game back on plan and we managed to capitalise.”
London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney:
“There were a lot of things there that were in our control that we can do better.
“I think there were a couple of momentum swings in the game too, so I think the two of those things combined probably cost us as the game went on.
“I think it’s well within our grasp to be that much better and fair play to Northampton, we knew they were going to be well up for it, but there are learnings for us to take.
“You could say there was a four-point swing in that nine minutes, which isn’t the worst thing with three men (in the sin bin).
“They only scored at the end of the three men coming back on and in the minute before that, we can probably control those moments better.”
Northampton: Furbank; Sleightholme, Proctor, Hutchinson, Collins; J Grayson, Mitchell; Wallace, Matavesi, Hill, Salakaia-Loto, Moon, Coles, Hinkley, Augustus.
Replacements: Haywood, Iyogun, Petch, Nansen, Scott-Young, Braley, Litchfield, Skosan.
London Irish: Arundell; Loader, Rona, Janse Van Rensburg, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, White; Gigena, Cornish, Chawatama, Simmons, Coleman, Donnell, Pearson, Rogerson.
Replacements:Miller, Fischetti, Parker, Ratuniyarawa, Cunningham-South, Englefield, Morisi, Joseph.
Referee: Luke Pearce