Stephen Myler inspired Northampton to a victory that cemented their play-off ambitions while wrecking those of their hosts. The Saints fly-half was superb in a game that delivered all that is good about the Aviva Premiership. Trailing 18-8 before half-time, Northampton stormed back to claim victory with a last-gasp charge-down try from Ben Nutley that lifted them to third. It was a heartbreaker for Irish, who ended with just a losing bonus point.
Having weathered a surging start by the hosts, Myler missed a penalty given for offside before Northampton steamed ahead two minutes later. The fly-half's hoist was well caught by Paul Diggin, sparking a move that seemed to involve most of the team, before Myler's splendid pass let Noah Cato score by the flag.
Irish almost hit back immediately through James Buckland, but they soon found their way onto the scoreboard when Adrian Jarvis slotted a penalty after Saints had offended in a line-out. Before they could recover, Northampton soon found themselves trailing 10-5 as Topsy Ojo snaffled a high ball, the menacing Sailosi Tagicakibau skipped up the left and Delon Armitage pounced to score, Jarvis adding the conversion.
Back stormed Saints, as Myler made it third kick lucky with a score on the half-hour. Saints then did the same, conceding a sloppy penalty in front of their posts which Jarvis accepted gratefully. But Irish were gifted their second try by Noah Cato as the wing virtually ambled back in pursuit of a Myler kick, realising too late that speedy opponents were upon him. Tagicakibau took charge, swatting away challenges to score.
Saints struck back in style four minutes after the break, another fine team-try that ended with a superb Myler pass, this time soaring right and straight to Roger Wilson. Then another stunning Myler pass sent Diggin racing clear of Armitage in the 51st minute, Myler converting.
The Irish response ? Their third try in a cracking contest. Kennedy pounded upfield, Armitage drew his man before sending Declan Danaher in on the right. Then came the frantic finale. Wonderful stuff!
London Irish: Tries Armitage, Tagicakibau, Danaher Conversion Jarvis Penalties Jarvis 2. Northampton: Tries Cato, Wilson, Diggin, Nutley Conversions Myler, Lamb Penalties Myler 2.
London Irish D Armitage; T Ojo, J Joseph, D Bowden, S Tagicakibau (T Homer, 76); A Jarvis, R Samson (D Allinson, 52); M Lahiff (C Dermody, 61), J Buckland (B Blaney, 42) , F Rautenbach (P Ion, 57), N Kennedy (capt; K Roche, 73), M Garvey, D Danaher, C Hala'Ufia, R Thorpe.
Northampton P Diggin; V Artemyev, G Pisi, J Downey, N Cato (T May, 49); S Myler (R Lamb, 61), M Roberts; S Tonga'uiha (A Waller, 61), A Long, P Doran-Jones (B Mujati, 57), M Sorensen, C Day (B Nutley, 65), S Manoa (J Craig, 76), R Wilson, C Clark (capt).
Referee A Small (London).