Cohen takes wing to fly back into the England reckoning

Northampton 25 London Irish 23
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The Independent Online

Cohen has drifted steadily out of Test contention since helping to win the World Cup in 2003 but his try-scoring record at the top level bears comparison with the best. Still, neither he nor his club-mates could have complained too loudly if Irish had held on here. The try and the continuation of a mini-streak for Northampton after two victories in the Powergen Cup were a reward for not much other than Reihana's quickly tapped penalty on the 22 and a pair of safely delivered passes by two forwards, Mark Soden and Sam Harding, which allowed Cohen to do the rest.

Reihana launched his right-footed kick from near the touchline in the thin strip of the ground still bathed in sunshine. And the roar of approval from the newly extended South Stand as the ball spiralled goalwards was taken up by the rest of the 13,262 crowd. Irish, who had won on their three previous visits in the Premiership, were beaten.

With so many overseas players on view, Cohen did not have much competition for star billing on Biscombe's film until Steve Thompson, England's incumbent hooker, came on as a replacement. Thompson's story has been something of a soap opera in this early part of the season and the latest twist to a plot which has had him as Saints' blindside flanker for the last three weekends was some wayward line-out throwing. You could almost hear the RFU lens zooming in. But Thompson was safe with his deliveries to Soden at the tail and Matt Lord at the front which gave Saints the position for the decisive score.

Up until then this was a tale of misadventure, with counter-attacking holding sway. The visitors' maul was a misfiring entity, and in the fourth minute it spilled a ball to David Quinlan. The Ireland centre, eschewing any thoughts of kinship with the Exiles, launched a movement involving Carlos Spencer, Harding, Cohen and Reihana which ended with the last-named running around to the posts and subsequently converting.

All four starting half-backs were born in New Zealand and one of them, the former Waikato fly-half Riki Flutey, kicked a penalty after 11 minutes. Then Flutey intercepted a hesitant pass from Spencer to Reihana and ran 50 metres to the line, adding the conversion for Irish to lead 10-7. The position improved when Dominic Feaunati, the Samoa international and former St Helens and Leigh rugby league wing, galloped free down the left touchline after Northampton lost possession at a driving maul.

Reihana's try and two penalties, to two penalties by Flutey, had Irish 23-18 ahead with the final quarter still to play. And while it seemed as if Cohen's last act would be a needless and slightly vicious tread on Declan Danaher's ankle, he saved the best for the final reel.

Northampton: B Reihana (capt); S Lamont (J Rudd, 80), J Clarke, D Quinlan (R Davies, 74), B Cohen; C Spencer, M Robinson (J Howard, 57); T Smith, D Richmond (S Thompson, 57), C Budgen (B Sturgess, 71), D Gérard (M Lord, 61), D Browne, D Fox, S Boome (M Soden, 64), S Harding.

London Irish: M Horak; S Staniforth (D Armitage, 40), R Penney, M Catt (capt), D Feaunati; R Flutey, B Willis; N Hatley, A Flavin, R Skuse (F Rautenbach, 61), B Casey, N Kennedy, D Danaher, P Murphy (JM Leguizamon, 40), K Dawson.

Referee: C White (Gloucestershire).