Gibson inspires Irish to improbable win over Saints

London Irish 39 Northampton Saints 17

the madejski stadium

The last unbeaten record in the Aviva Premiership was ground into the dust yesterday. Northampton may have retained their top spot thanks to the demise of Harlequins in the West Country, but they will have left feeling nothing like leaders.

Not even the most hardened London Irish enthusiast would have seen this coming: the team that started the day second from bottom, with one win from five outings, played such convincing rugby that they posted a reminder of that blissful 2008 season when they made their way to the last four in Europe.

They took on the Northampton set-piece and came out ahead, they rolled their mauls so many metres that Northampton will blush to remember and their two half-backs ran the most effective of shows. Tomas O'Leary was a constant thorn, and Ian Humphreys will be hard to dislodge from fly- half so composed was he.

More to the point, they played the attacking rugby on which Brian Smith, their director of rugby, is insistent. Yet they allied offence to a far more aggressive defence, the area which let them down last month. "Northampton came with a monster pack. It was a big challenge because confidence has not been high," Smith said. Hence the selection of Jamie Gibson, 22, at openside flanker, and how well he responded. Northampton fielded three England caps in their back row but the tall blond youngster played the most thoughtful of games, as well as scoring the try that gave Irish their first try bonus point of the season.

Most of Gibson's senior rugby has been on the blindside, where Courtney Lawes continued his comeback on an afternoon which Jim Mallinder, Saints' director of rugby, described as "an embarrassment". "Mentally I don't think we were up for the game," Mallinder added, refusing to accept the late withdrawal of James Wilson, with a pulled muscle, as an excuse.

That left Vasily Artemyev filling in at full-back, where the Russian wing was clearly not at home. His uncertainty spread to his colleagues; not one of Northampton's traditional strengths served them well in the absence of injured captain Dylan Hartley, who should be back from an eye injury for next weekend's European campaign.

Perhaps Northampton knew it would not be their day when the first scrum of the match earned them two free-kicks and then a penalty to their opponents. That was followed by an overthrown Northampton line-out which fell for Ofisa Treviranus. The ball was kicked through by Jonathan Joseph and Marland Yarde, with Joseph getting the touchdown.

The goalkicking of Steven Shingler was not at its best but the full-back added a penalty and converted a try by David Paice, the hooker shunting his way over after the initial break by O'Leary.

When Humphreys knocked over a 40-metre drop goal Northampton, who have been scoring first-half points for fun, trailed 18-0 at the interval; midway through the second half, the difference was 30.

Joseph's break and accurate pass gave Topsy Ojo the chance to finish strongly through the tackles of Luther Burrell and Ken Pisi. Another perceptive pass, this time by Shingler, found Treviranus lurking on the wing and he gave Gibson a 40-metre gallop to the line.

By this time Northampton were playing only for pride. Pisi, the best of their backs, recovered one try as a raft of changes allowed the Irish to restore an Armitage (Guy, the younger of the brothers who decamped to Toulon in the summer) to their ranks.

Shingler kept knocking over penalties and Dowson's close-range try for Northampton did nothing to make the journey home any more comfortable.

London Irish S Shingler; T Ojo, J Joseph, S Tagicakibau (G Armitage, 66), M Yarde; I Humphreys (S Geraghty, 66), T O'Leary (J Moates, 62); M Lahiff, D Paice (S Malton, 75), H Aulika (A Cotter, 59), G Skivington (K Low, 76), B Evans (capt), M Garvey, O Treviranus (C Hala'ufia, 62), J Gibson.

Northampton V Artemyev (R Lamb, 50); K Pisi, D Waldouck, L Burrell (T May, 62), N Cato; S Myler, L Dickson (M Roberts, 65); S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 62), M Haywood R McMillan, 62), B Mujati (P Doran-Jones, 59), S Manoa (R Oakley, 62), M Sorenson, C Lawes, P Dowson (captain), T Wood (T Harrison, 70).

Referee M Raynal (France).

Attendance 7,918.

London Irish

Tries: Joseph, Paice, Ojo, Gibson

Cons: Shingler 2

Pens: Shingler 4

Drop goal: Humphreys

Northampton

Tries: Pisi, Dowson

Cons: Myler 2

Pen: Myler

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness