Saints push Exiles further into trouble
March 2, 2013
Northampton piled misery on London Irish%]
Jamie Elliott ran in a hat-trick as Northampton moved into the Aviva Premiership play-off places with a six-try 40-14 demolition of London Irish at Franklin's Gardens.
The Irish backline was a constant threat in the first half, but the power of the Northampton pack took over after the break as the home side scored three tries in 15 minutes either side of half-time to settle the contest.
Elliott's hat-trick makes it five tries in two games for the winger, as Samu Manoa, Soane Tonga'uiha and Gerrit-Jan van Velze also dotted down for Northampton. Guy Armitage scored a consolation try for the Exiles, but they will have rued some missed opportunities before the home pack built up a head of steam.
Jon Fisher and Pat Phibbs were both held up on the try-line after a lovely flat pass from former Saint Shane Geraghty opened up the home side's right flank. The pressure produced three points for Tom Homer after eight minutes but it should have been more. Instead it was Elliott who got the first try of the game a minute later. A superb long pass from Stephen Myler found the winger free and he just beat the covering defence to the corner. Myler converted from the touchline to make it 7-3.
Irish fluffed another great chance two minutes later as Geraghty sent Marland Yarde down the right touchline, but with Topsy Ojo on his shoulder and only Northampton's Ben Foden to beat his pass went into touch.
Myler skewed a penalty wide and with Geraghty at the heart of things London Irish were looking threatening. A good kick and chase from Ojo saw the visitors trim the deficit as Elliott was caught holding on in front of his posts and Homer made it 7-6. Then a bad lineout throw from England hooker Dylan Hartley on his five-metre line was compounded by Irish forcing a penalty at the scrum and Homer put Irish in front, but it only served to fire up the Saints pack.
Myler kicked a penalty into the corner and although the lineout drive was halted on the line, flanker Manoa picked up and wriggled over. Myler converted from the touchline to end the first half with Northampton leading 14-9.
George Pisi missed a golden chance to extend Northampton's lead straight from the kick-off as he charged down Geraghty in the Irish 22, but knocked-on trying to pick up the ball with the try-line at his mercy, but Tonga'uiha made up for the miss two minutes later as he peeled round off a five-metre lineout to crash through Yarde to score Northampton's third try. Myler made it 21-9 five minutes into the second half and it was the Northampton pack who notched the bonus point try 10 minutes later with another lineout drive.
Brian Mujati came off the bench for his first appearance of the year after picking up a calf injury in December and he immediately drove a penalty out of the Irish scrum. Myler kicked it into the corner and although the visitors initially pushed the lineout drive backwards, Northampton peeled to the left and steamed over for Van Velze to score. Myler converted and it was job done at 28-9.
Two minutes later Northampton had a fifth try and Elliott a second as Dominic Waldouck crashed through Geraghty off a lineout move and the ball was quickly moved wide for James Wilson to pass to the winger who screamed down the left touchline to dive into the corner.
Armitage scored a deserved try for Irish with six minutes left, but Elliott had the last word picking up Ryan Lamb's crossfield chip to complete his hat-trick. Homer missed his conversion from the touchline, but Lamb landed his.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder feels Hartley and Courtney Lawes have given England head coach Stuart Lancaster a selection dilemma after they inspired Saints to a six-try demolition of London Irish.
England take on Italy next weekend and Mallinder feels Hartley and Lawes' performances could have forced Lancaster to think again after he released the pair for the clash against the Exiles.
"I thought our two returning England lads were particularly impressive. Hartley and Lawes put their bodies on the line and were very, very good," Mallinder said.
"Courtney has come back with a real determined attitude. He was frustrated from his performance for England against France, he is an honest guy, he doesn't hide away. But his work rate and physicality was immense today. I hope Stuart watches the game because then it will give him a few more selection headaches."
London Irish director of rugby Smith admitted his side were blown away in the second half after coming in at half-time unlucky to be 14-9 down.
"They ran riot in the second half," he said. "We had a couple of scoring chances in the first half and we really needed to take them, we had to score at least twice from our trips to their 22 in the first half and we didn't do that.
"The second half is one we would rather forget. We messed up a simple exit just before half-time and gave them field position to score when we could have gone in leading. We turned the ball over 23 times today and we don't turn the ball over 23 times in a season."
James Wilson was part of a Northampton side that showed no mercy to London Irish's plight © Getty Images
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