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Irish made a good start to the game and had the majority of possession; they did however struggle early on to find any way through Northampton’s solid defence.
Northampton mounted the first real attack of the game on the 15 minute mark, but resilient Irish defence proved too difficult for the Saints to breakdown and the Exiles forced the turnover to relieve pressure.
It was the visitors however who scored the first try of the game through their England international winger Chris Ashton. Northampton turned the ball over after the Exiles mounted an attack on the Saints line. The ball was knocked on by an Exiles forward and Ashton was on hand to punish the mistake. Stephen Myler added the conversion.
Tom Homer scored the first points for the home side with another trade mark penalty kick from just on half way which is fast becoming a given every time the winger takes the field.
Homer added his second penalty moments later after the Saints were penalised at the breakdown to put the Exiles within a point of the visitors.
Stephen Myler responded with a penalty of his own with six minutes left in the half to increase the visitors lead as the Irish were penalised for pulling down Christian Day whilst in the air at the lineout.
Myler extended his sides lead on the stroke of half time with his second successful penalty kick to give the Saints a 13-6 lead at the break.
Northampton made the better start to the second half as the Irish had to come to terms with a few decisions not going their way.
Myler kicked the first penalty after ten minutes of play as his side dominated possession and territory in the opening exchanges.
Northampton scored their second try of the game with another breakaway try. Dylan Hartley hacked the ball out of the ruck, Ben Foden gathered and stormed up the left wing offloading to Soane Tonga’uiha before Chris Ashton was on hand to score his second try of the game. Myler added the conversion and suddenly Northampton’s lead was 23-6.
The Exiles needed a try to stand any chance of staging a comeback and it came from replacement Richard Thorpe, who picked up from the base of the scrum five metres out and dived over the line. Homer added the conversion and suddenly Irish were back in the game.
The men in green were over again moments later as Dan Bowen showed a piece of individual brilliance in offloading out of the tackle to the departing Seilala Mapusua who dived in under the posts. Homer kicked the conversion to cut the deficit to just three points.
Stephen Myler kicked his fourth penalty to increase the lead for the visitors slightly, but the last five minutes was all London Irish. The Exiles could have stolen a late victory right at the death but were denied by some great defensive work from Chris Ashton.
Irish go to Welford Road to play Leicester on 7th May where they will look to secure their Heineken Cup place for next season.
Score sequence: (London Irish first) 0-7, 3-7, 6-7, 6-10, 6-13, 6-16, 6-23, 13-23, 20-23, 20-26
Scorers: London Irish: Tries: Richard Thorpe (66),Seilala Mapusua (68): Conversions: Homer 2: Penalties: Homer 2; Northampton: Tries: Ashton (20,57); Conversions: Myler 2; Penalties: Myler 4
London Irish team
15. Delon Armitage; 14. Topsy Ojo; 13. Elvis Seveali’i (Rep: Jonathan Joseph, 60); 12. Seilala Mapusua; 11. Tom Homer; 10. Dan Bowden; 9. Paul Hodgson (Rep: Darren Allinson, 55); 1. Clarke Dermody (Captain) (Rep: Max Lahiif, 71); 2. David Paice; 3. Faan Rautenbach (Rep: Paulica Ion,64) ;4. Nick Kennedy; 5. Bob Casey (Rep: Gary Johnson, 64); 6. Jamie Gibson; 7. Steffon Armitage; 8. George Stowers (rep: Richard Thorpe; 55)
15. Ben Foden; 14. Chris Ashton; 13. Jon Clarke; 12. James Downey; 11. Paul Diggin; 10. Stephen Myler; 9. Lee Dickson; 1.Soane Tonga’uhia (Rep: Alex Waller, 58); 2. Dylan Hartley (Captain) (Rep: Brett Sharman, 58); 3. Brian Mujati (Rep: Tom Mercey, 58); 4. Courtney Lawes (Rep: Mark Easter, 64); 5. Christian Day; 6. Calum Clark (Rep:Mark Sorenson, 65); 7. Phil Dowson; 8. Roger Wilson
Referee: David Rose