James O’Connor makes losing start at London Irish as Northampton Saints march on


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The Independent Online

Northampton maintained their impressive early-season form and push for the Premiership title by battling past London Irish, 19-14, at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday.

Full-back James Wilson crossed for Saints in the first half and fly-half Stephen Myler kicked 14 points as they made it five league wins from seven matches. Wing Sailosi Tagicakibau grabbed the Irish try, with No 10 Ian Humphreys adding his side’s extras with the boot.

All eyes were on controversial Australian James O’Connor who took centre stage for his Irish debut just a few days after signing a contract until the end of the season. The versatile 23-year-old Queenslander, who has amassed 223 points in 44 caps for the Wallabies, took his bow at full-back and impressed throughout with his running skills as he seeks to rebuild his career following a series of off-field misdemeanours.  He was on his best behaviour on Sunday, claiming an assist for the Exiles’ try and looked poised and controlled throughout.

The former England fly-half Charlie Hodgson marked his first appearance of the season with an 18-point haul in a 40-3  victory over Newcastle for the leaders Saracens.

Hodgson was back in action after an Achilles injury and scored the opening try, two conversions and three penalties. Left wing David Strettle, hooker Jamie George and full-back Alex Goode scored second-half tries to secure a bonus-point win for the leaders before Goode converted Strettle’s second touchdown three minutes from time.