London Irish 3 Northampton Saints 27: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

Saints celebrated a victory at The Stoop on SaturdaySaints celebrated a victory at The Stoop on Saturday
Saints celebrated a victory at The Stoop on Saturday
Twickenham Stadium may just be around the corner from The Stoop, but at half-time on Saturday it felt much further away than that for Saints.

Because after suffering a disappointing 34-21 defeat to Wasps in their first Gallagher Premiership game since the resumption of the season six days earlier, they were finding it tough again.

But what happened in the second half certainly reignited some hopes that this team can once again finish in the top four and keep the title flame burning bright at Franklin's Gardens.

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Saints were totally dominant during the second half and they capped that fantastic finish with what Chris Boyd described as 'the cream on top of the cake'.

George Furbank showed glimpses of his classGeorge Furbank showed glimpses of his class
George Furbank showed glimpses of his class

That cream, or sauce as some would call it, was one of the best tries you will see this season.

Time was running out when James Grayson delivered a laser-like pass out wide to Ahsee Tuala, who was a second-half replacement for Ryan Olowofela.

You felt, as had happened for much of the day, that touch was beckoning with two Irish defenders ready to cover.

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But Tuala combined brilliant strength with tremendous balance, brushing off the would-be tacklers before capping the rambunctious run with the best possible finish.

Matt Proctor produced a strong performanceMatt Proctor produced a strong performance
Matt Proctor produced a strong performance

The Samoan flew threw the air, in a style one commentator compared to Superman, before grounding the ball and performing a forward role.

It was a spectacular denouement to a game that saw Saints reassert their top-four credentials.

It wasn't something that you could see coming at half-time, as the men in grey wasted myriad opportunities in Irish territory.

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And had Ollie Hassell-Collins completed what looked a simple pass, especially for a winger of his class, then Saints would have been behind.

But he didn't, and they weren't.

And they overcome that sloppy first half to deliver something much more slick as Irish started to really struggle.

In fact, the hosts couldn't get out of their own half for much of the final half and hour, and they were submerged by Saints' power game.

So much so that referee Ian Tempest found himself in the middle of a penalty try storm.

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After not taking too long to award the first, he took what seemed an age to award the second.

Irish were put under increasing strain as Saints turned the screw at the scrum, forcing a player into the sin bin.

And eventually Tempest did what he could have done a few minutes earlier, heading under the posts to award the try.

It left Saints with 12 minutes to bag the bonus and, thanks to the heroics of Tuala, they did just that, in the most dramatic fashion.

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It was a crucial success at the start of an eight-day period that will see them play three games.

Next up is a battle with Bath at the Gardens on Wednesday before Saints return to August's second home, The Stoop, to take on Harlequins.

And the focus now will be on being more Saints-of-the-second-half than Saints-of-the-first-half after a satisfying Saturday afternoon in south-west London.

How they rated...


Showed glimpses of the player everyone now knows he is, with his slaloming runs and offload game starting to gel again... 7


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A rare start for the wing and he didn't do much wrong, it was just that the game hadn't quite opened up as he'd have liked while he was on the field... 6


Produced a lovely pass in the build-up to Tom Collins' try and overall it was a strong showing from the centre, who Saints will expect plenty from this season and beyond... 7


When this guy is playing well, Saints are playing well, and he really started to pull the strings after half-time in an accomplished, creative showing... 7.5


Didn't have the easiest time in the first half but he was the catalyst for this Saints success in the second, creating a superb try for himself as he breathed new life into the away side... 7


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Missed a couple of kicks for touch with the wind hampering him, but some of his efforts from hand really were superb and he produced a fantastic flat pass for Tuala's stunning score... 7


Buzzed around in trademark style and one break really caught the eye as the scrum-half showed he is going to remain one to watch at Saints... 7


Came off at the time when Saints were just starting to really take control but didn't do too badly overalll... 6


It was great for Saints to have the hooker back and although a couple of lineouts went astray during the first half, he wasn't totally to blame. He helped to step up the power game after the break... 7


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Looked hungry for work, charging into breakdowns and doing everything he could to get Saints going forward... 6.5


Looks to have added even more bulk during the time away from Franklin's Gardens and the England lock was a force to be reckoned with here... 7.5


While some Saints players struggled to get to grips with it in the first half, this man was class from the off, stealing Irish possession and thundering into tackles. Looks a superb signing... 8


It's always good to see this man's name on the teamsheet and he produced a typically assured display here... 7


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Was skippering Saints for only the second time and his showing after half-time was one of a true leader as he drove his team forward and could have had a hat-trick of tries on another day... 7.5


It will take the South African time to get up to speed in England's top flight but he showed signs of his ability on debut... 6.5

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

DANNY HOBBS-AWOYEMI (for van Wyk 50)

Helped Saints to turn the screw at the scrum and provided some useful contributions against his former club... 7