Rugby

Premiership: Northampton Saints 44-26 London Irish – Six-try Saints move into top four

Full-back Fraser Dingwall returned from a calf injury to score Northampton’s first try on his 50th club appearance
Northampton (25) 44
Tries: Dingwall, Mitchell 2, Sleightholme 2, Francis Cons: Biggar 4 Pens: Biggar 2
London Irish (14) 26
Tries: Phipps, Hassell-Collins, Tuisue, Loader Cons: Jackson 3

Alex Mitchell and Ollie Sleightholme scored two tries apiece as Northampton beat London Irish in a frantic game to move into the Premiership’s top four.

Fraser Dingwall marked his return with a score and Mitchell’s fine double gave Saints a nine-point interval lead.

Albert Tuisue finished from close range for Irish, but Dan Biggar was dominant as Sleightholme scored in the corner either side of Piers Francis’ try.

The Exiles came away with a try bonus point after Ben Loader sliced through.

Victory moved Chris Boyd’s Saints up to fourth, level on points with third-placed Sale and five points clear of sixth-placed Irish, who have only won once away in 2021.

Nick Phipps snuck through a gap to power over and put the visitors ahead, but Wales fly-half Biggar drew a defender before finding Dingwall to level things up.

The visitors led for the only time when Ollie Hassell-Collins broke through a tackle to burst through but, either side of Loader’s sin-binning for taking out Nick Isiekwe in the air, England hopeful Mitchell showed pace and skill to score two fine tries.

The feat made him the first Saints player to score in four consecutive matches since 2018.

A missed tackle led to Tuisue reducing the visitors’ arrears to 25-19 just after the break, but that was as close as they got.

Sleightholme finished in the corner, Francis got around Loader to score, and Sleightholme then got on the end of Rory Hutchinson’s excellent low kick for his ninth try in as many games.

Biggar was yellow carded for a deliberate knock-on in the closing seconds, but it could do nothing to dampen Saints’ evening as they bounced back from their European Challenge Cup exit.

Northampton assistant coach Sam Vesty:

“It was not a complete performance as we gave too much away and we can’t afford to do that in certain games.

“However it’s encouraging to see the boys playing heads-up rugby to see where the space was.

“When you secure a lead you’ve got to keep playing the way that got you there and not go into your shell.

“We have a really young group of players with bags of potential.”

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney:

“We didn’t have enough possession and that gave them a lot of attacking opportunities and restricted ours.

“We made a lot of line-breaks and should have converted more of them so there is still plenty to work on.

“We can’t hide behind the fact that we conceded a number of scores especially in that decisive third quarter but the boys kept fighting, although knocking the ball on right at the end summed up our night.”

Northampton: Furbank; Sleightholme, Dingwall, Francis, Collins; Biggar, Mitchell; Auterac, Haywood, Hill, Ribbans, Moon, Isiekwe, Ludlam (capt), Harrison.

Replacements: S Matavesi, Waller, Painter, Coles, Wood, James, Hutchinson, Tuala.

Sin-bin: Biggar (80)

London Irish: Parton; Loader, Stokes, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps; Dell, Matu’u, Chawatama, Munga, Simmons, Donnell, Cowan (capt), Tuisue.

Replacements: Cornish, Elrington, Hoskins, Nott, Rogerson, Meehan, P. Cokanasiga, Homer.

Sin-bin: Loader (27).

Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).

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