Northampton Saints 40 London Irish 14By Alan Manicom
March 02, 2013
Northampton Saints 40 London Irish 14
Brian Smith admitted that the second half of this Aviva Premiership match was one he would like to forget after his London Irish team were blown away by Northampton's power pack.
Although Exiles were eventually outscored six tries to one at Franklin's Gardens, the outcome was very much in the balance at half-time.
Despite conceding an eighth-minute try to Northampton's hat-trick hero Jamie Elliott, Exiles looked to be heading into the break 9-7 ahead thanks to three Tom Homer penalties.
But Irish turned the ball over in the last minute of the first half and allowed Northampton back-
row forward Samu Manoa to wriggle over from a lineout drive.
Smith, though, said: "At 14-9 at half-time I thought we were well and truly in the contest.
"But they ran riot in the second half. It was very disappointing.
"We had trouble just before half-time with a simple exit. If we had got out clean from our own half just before half-time we would have gone into the break ahead.
"When you are playing away that is a handy position to be in.
"But we messed up just inside our own 22, gave them field position and they scored.
"Conceding one try just before half-time and then another very quickly after half-time allowed them to get their tails up."
Northampton's powerful prop Soane Tong'uiha broke off the back of a lineout to cross the Irish line four minutes into the second half.
And there was no stopping Gerrit-Jan van Velze from being driven over as Irish were powerless to halt another Northampton maul following a lineout.
Then Elliott sprinted over on the left following good work by Dom Waldouck to extend the lead to 33-9.
Smith said: "They were coming downhill in the second half, which is what they like to do towards their supporters in the grand stand.
"We had a couple of scoring chances in the first half and I felt we really needed to have taken
"We were in their 22 and came away with three points here and three points there.
"But we knew we had to take them by the jugular in the first half. We had to score at least twice from our trips to their 22 in the first half.
"The second half was one we would like to forget."
Guy Armitage scored a consolation try for Irish in the 73rd minute following a clever miss pass by the lively Seitamata Sa, who had come on to make his debut only a couple of minutes earlier.
But Northampton had the last word, Elliott pouncing on a neat kick by former London Irish fly-half Ryan Lamb to complete his hat-trick of tries.
Lamb sent over the conversion to add to the four Stephen Myler had kicked earlier.
Smith was pleased with Sa's first appearance for Irish following his move from Catalan Dragons.
He said: "These were difficult circumstances for someone to make a debut but he did well when he came on.
"He has come across from rugby league and I wanted him to get a taste of what a good rugby union club set-up is and I think Northampton have a brilliant set-up here.
"It is a nice tight little ground. The supporters are right on top of the pitch.
"They support their team. They are quiet when people are taking their kicks at goal. It is a
genuine rugby crowd and they have a good thing going here.
"Whilst we are disappointed, that performance from the Northampton pack is five years in the
"Dorian West and Jim Mallinder have done a great job.
"The message to my boys and our pack is 'That's where we want to be'.
"We can do it sporadically but they had more than a points decision up front and we did not play that well behind the pack either.
"When that happens it can get messy on the scoreboard."
Smith added: "We turned the ball over 23 times today and we do not do that in a season.
"Once we were under pressure we started playing from deep and we did not have a great game in midfield.
"There were lots of loose passes.
"It's a performance that we are smarting from."
It was all a far cry from Irish's 39-17 win over Northampton at Madejski Stadium in October last year.
Smith said: "Northampton came to us at the beginning of the season and we sent them packing.
"We have come up here and they have sent us well and truly packing and probably put a bit of icing on top as well."
Irish, though, remain five points clear of the bottom-of-the-table relegation
spot occupied by Sale Sharks, who lost 48-10 at Leicester Tigers.
Exiles must now wait three weeks before resuming their fight to retain top-flight status with the St Patrick's Day Party game at home to Worcester Warriors on March 23.