London Irish strike late to stun Northampton Saints

Date published: January 24 2020

London Irish produced a shock result in the Premiership on Friday as they struck late on to defeat Northampton Saints 20-16 at Franklin’s Gardens, a result that moves them up to ninth in the table.

A try from Dave Porecki in the 79th minute sealed the Exiles’ third win of the domestic season as Saints missed the chance to move to the summit.

London Irish second-row Adam Coleman charged down an attempted clearance from Saints’ replacement Henry Taylor enabling Porecki to crash over.

Lock Api Ratuniyarawa was sent off in the 50th minute for a head-high challenge on visiting prop Harry Elrington as the Fijian tried to effect a clear-out at a ruck.

A disjointed Saints led 13-8 at the time but the red card seemed to temporarily galvanise them as the Exiles seemed incapable of taking advantage of Ratuniyarawa’s dismissal until two late tries saw them to a surprise victory.

Cobus Reinach scored Northampton’s try with James Grayson kicking three penalties and a conversion.

Ollie Hassell-Collins, Franco van der Merwe and Porecki responded with tries for Irish with Stephen Myler adding a penalty and a conversion.

Piers Francis led out Northampton on his 50th appearance for the club but the celebration was short-lived as he was stretchered from the field in the 13th minute.

Saints soon suffered another setback when four minutes later the visitors took the lead.

Drives from Porecki and Sekope Kepu forced Northampton to concede a penalty in front of these own posts. Irish then opted for a scrum and were rewarded when a long pass from Ben Meehan provided Hassell-Collins with an easy run-in.

Myler’s conversion attempt rebounded back off a post before Grayson put the hosts on the scoreboard with a simple penalty.

However, Irish continued to be the more lively side in the opening period but their momentum was temporarily halted when Meehan was yellow carded after upending his opposite number Reinach.

In Meehan’s absence, Myler fired over a penalty before Northampton made their numerical advantage count when Reinach saw a gap to dart over from close range.

Grayson converted and added a penalty to give Saints a fortunate 13-8 half-time lead and their spirits were further buoyed by the news that Francis had recovered to be up and walking around the changing room.

After the interval, Grayson had the first chance for points but his 40-metre penalty attempt never threatened the posts before Ratuniyarawa was sent off.

Despite that blow, Northampton continued to dominate the second period.

However, Grayson missed a sitter but when Irish replacement, Nick Phipps, was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, the fly-half kept his cool to fire over his third penalty with a far more difficult kick.

A superb break from Curtis Rona looked to have created a second try for Hassell-Collins but an excellent cover tackle from Reinach dislodged the ball from the wing’s grasp as he dived for the line.

Irish were not to be denied as they maintained the pressure for Van der Merwe to score before Porecki added the winning score.