Northampton. . . .3
THERE was little between these teams bar the kickers. John Steele of Northampton contrived to miss five of his six chances, while Michael Corcoran converted four out of five to record the Exiles' first League victory of the season.
The fancied Northampton side let their 100 per cent record slip easily. Even without the injured Tim Rodber, their pack contained considerable power and height, but they failed to control the game for anything more than five minutes of heavy pressure when they were already six points adrift.
London Irish won twice as much line-out ball in the first half, when the towering Martin Bayfield was prevented from showing any international quality. Come the second half, the Saints' scrum lacked any of its hallmark crispness and uniformity, with Wayne Shelford a sorry figure a pace behind the pack. The outstanding forward on the pitch was Colin Hall, who left Northampton last season and yesterday was a ubiquitous scavenging presence in the green of London Irish.
The Exiles contributed little of any elegance, however. When Paul Burke left the field with a dislocated shoulder, Rob Saunders moved out to fly-half and the game plan became attack by aerial bombardment.
Northampton's full-back, Nick Beal, coped ably and it was only when the Irish kicked for points rather than pressure that their win became a possibility, Corcoran striking his penalties with an unerring accuracy that Steele simply could not match.
London Irish: J Staples; S Geoghegan, R Hennessy, D Curtis, M Corcoran; P Burke (J Byrne, 23 min), R Saunders; N Donovan, J McFarland, G Halpin, C Hall, M Keenan, A Verling, D Pegler, B Robinson.
Northampton: N Beal; J Griffiths, F Packman, R MacNaughton, H Thorneycroft; J Steele, M Dawson; G Baldwin, J Olver, L Baker, M Bayfield, J Etheridge, P Walton, R Tebbutt, W Shelford.
Referee: B Campsal.
Scores: Corcoran (pen, 42 min) 3-0, Steele (pen, 49 min) 3-3, Corcoran (pen, 51 min) 6-3, Corcoran (pen, 55 min) 9-3, Corcoran (pen, 68 min)