The Wokingham Paper

Northampton Saints 16-20 London Irish: Exiles earn stunning win against title challengers

London Irish v Scarlets
London Irish v Scarlets

LONDON IRISH earned a stunning win at high flying Northampton Saints as Dave Porecki scored a try one minute before the end of time to give the Exiles a huge victory.

Saints were reduced to 14-men early in the second half as Api Ratuniyarawa was dismissed for a shoulder charge. With a narrow lead going into the final few minutes, Porecki charged down a kick and scored a match winning try in the 79th minute.

Irish came into the game at Franklins Gardens looking to recapture some form after slipping down to 10th in the Gallagher Premiership.

Northampton Saints boasted superb form with six wins from eight league games, seeing them in second position in the table.

Saints won an early penalty in just the second minute, but failed to take advantage as Grayson failed to find touch with his kick.

Irish had much of the early possession as both sides traded territory with a succession of long kicks from their own halves.

There was then a lengthy stoppage in the game as Saints player Piers Francis was stretchered off the pitch with a severe looking injury.

The restart of play saw James Stokes kick deep into Saints’ half before Irish stole the ball from the hosts line out. Having won a penalty, the Exiles opted for a scrum and chipped a neat ball out wide which was caught well by Ollie Hassell-Collins who sidestepped a defender before getting over the line for the first score of the match.

Stephen Myler, who won the Premiership title with Saints in 2013/14, struck the post with his conversion to keep the score at 5-0.

Northampton had their first spell of sustained possession which saw them win a penalty, which was converted by James Grayson to reduce the deficit to 3-5.

Irish thought they had found their second try of the evening as Blair Cowan touched down at the base of the post, but the TMO review showed that he dropped the ball on his way down.

Meehan could count himself lucky to stay on the pitch as he was shown a yellow card for a dump tackle after the whistle, where Irish had just been awarded a penalty just five metres from the Saints try line.

Myler knocked the next points in the game as the former Saints player gave Irish an 8-3 lead.

Saints were denied a try for a forward pass, but moments later they did get over the line as Cobu Reinach burst through the defence. Grayson converted before scoring a penalty a minute before the end of the half to go in with a 13-8 lead.

Grayson missed the posts from a penalty before the game took a huge twist in the 50th minute after Saints player Api Ratuniyarawa was shown a red card for a shoulder charge on Elrington. After a long review from the TMO and the referee, the officials reduced saints to 14 players for the remainder of the half.

The home team threatened the Irish try line despite their one man deficit, but the Exiles held a strong defensive line to keep them out after several phases of play eventually leading to a knock on.

Grayson again missed the target, this time from close range as his kick flew wide of the post as the 14-man side failed to capitalise.

The sides were levelled at 14 players for the next 10 minutes in the match as Nick Phipps was sin binned for a deliberate knock on. Grayson added the penalty to put Northampton 16-8 ahead.

Hassell-Collins thought he had his second try of the night but he lost control of the ball on his way down after a heroic tackle from Reinach to stop him.

But Irish did reduce the deficit with just seven minutes remaining as captain van der Merwe got over the line. Myler converted to put Irish within a point at 16-15 to set up a grand stand finish.

Porecki charged down a clearance and got over the line to score the try in an astonishing finish to the contest.

The win sees Irish move up in the Premiership table, with Harlequins away their next fixture to come on Saturday, February 15.

Northampton: Tuala; Sleightholme, Hutchinson, Francis, Naiyaravoro; Grayson, Reinach; B Franks, Haywood, O Franks, Coles, Ratuniyarawa, Wood, Harrison (capt), Eadie.

ReplacementsFish, Waller, Painter, Bean, Tonks, Taylor, Symons, Collins.

London Irish: Stokes; Naholo, Rona, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins; Myler, Meehan; Elrington, Porecki, Kepu, Van der Merwe (capt), Coleman, Rogerson, Cowan, Tuisue.

Replacements: Atkins, Dell, Hoskins, Mafi, Donnell, Phipps, Stephenson, Williams.

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