Ratuniyarawa sees red as Saints are stunned by London Irish

Api Ratuniyarawa was sent off as Saints suffered their first home defeat of the Gallagher Premiership season, at the hands of London Irish.

By Tom Vickers
Friday, 24th January 2020, 10:08 pm
Updated Friday, 24th January 2020, 10:44 pm
Dave Porecki pounced to win it for London Irish
Dave Porecki pounced to win it for London Irish

Referee Tom Foley was the most unpopular man in Northampton and boos rang out at the final whistle, with Irish celebrating a last-gasp 20-16 win thanks to Dave Porecki's try.

It brought and end to the men from the Madejski Stadium's seven-match losing streak and left Saints feeling deflated as their four-match winning run came to a crushing conclusion.

There were two big flashpoints on the night as Irish No.9 Ben Meehan was only yellow carded for an off-the-ball tip tackle on Cobus Reinach during the first half.

Cobus Reinach scored a first-half try for Saints

That infuriated the home fans, and they were even more dismayed 10 minutes into the second half as Ratuniyarawa was sent off for making contact with the head of Harry Elrington at a ruck.

Saints were fired up by that incident and looked set to secure the win as James Grayson added a penalty to their 13-8 lead.

But Irish still had life in them and after Franco van der Merwe scored six minutes from time, Adam Coleman charged down a Henry Taylor box kick, allowing Porecki to score.

Stephen Myler, on his first return to Franklin's Gardens, couldn't add the extras, but it didn't matter as he had taken sufficient time to make sure it would be the final act of the match.

Rory Hutchinson tried to get to the ball first

Saints' misery was added to by the early departure of Piers Francis, who, just back from concussion, was stretchered off after appearing to suffer another head injury.

Saints had been so flat before the Francis injury and their lethargy continued, allowing London Irish to take the lead as a long pass was looped out to Ollie Hassell-Collins.

Myler missed the conversion, hitting the post, much to the surprise of all who had watched him at the Gardens during his long stay at Saints.

And the home crowd then tried to get involved, desperately seeking to spark Saints into life.

Cobus Reinach's try was the highlight of a frustrating first half for Saints

Teimana Harrison did his best with some strong carrying and Saints earned a penalty, which Grayson kicked to get his team on the board on 23 minutes.

But London Irish were carrying plenty of threat and they almost scored again as flanker Blair Cowan tried to touch the ball against the base of the post but dropped it in the process.

Irish soon won a penalty at the scrum, but it was reversed after a major flashpoint involving the two scrum-halves.

Meehan tip tackled Reinach off the ball and after speaking to his TMO, referee Foley showed a yellow card, to a backdrop of loud boos as the home fans felt it should have been red.

The frustration soon grew further as Foley awarded Irish a penalty for what he felt was a deliberate knock-on from Alex Coles, and Myler made no mistake.

Saints had barely had any attacking possession, but when they finally got some, Reinach made it count, scooting over the line after the pack had applied the pressure from a lineout.

Grayson kicked well from close to the touchline and Saints led for the first time at 10-8 up.

And Grayson was soon adding more points to the tally after Irish conceded a penalty in front of their own posts.

Grayson had another penalty chance five minutes into the second period, but he fired it wide from distance.

And there was soon a major incident as Ratuniyarawa was shown a red card for a shoulder to the head of prop Elrington at a ruck.

There was more boos, even louder this time, as the red card was dished out.

The Saints fans were fired up by the incident and so were the players, putting the squeeze on Irish, who were defending with real desire.

A sustained spell of Saints pressure came to nothing as Grayson missed what looked to be a simple penalty attempt.

But after replacement scrum-half Nick Phipps was sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on, Grayson made amends with a nice strike to take the lead up to 16-8.

London Irish looked to have scored with 11 minutes to go as Curtis Rona released Hassell-Collins and he flew over the line, but Reinach made an incredible tackle to help dislodge the ball and prevent the try.

But it wasn't long before London Irish did score, Franco van der Merwe flying over as gaps started to appear in the Saints rearguard.

Myler converted to cut the gap to just one point and after some difficult late moments for replacement Taylor, who was on for the injured Naiyaravoro, Irish won it.

Coleman charged down Taylor's attempted clearance and Porecki pounced to pouch a huge win for his team.

Saints: Tuala; Sleightholme (Collins 39), Hutchinson, Francis (Symons 13), Naiyaravoro (Taylor 66); Grayson, Reinach; B Franks (Waller 57), Haywood (Fish 61), O Franks (Painter 57); Coles, Ratuniyarawa; Wood, Harrison (c), Eadie (Bean 50).

London Irish: Stokes; Naholo, Rona, Hepetema, Hassell-Collins; Myler, Meehan (Phipps 50); Elrington (Dell 57), Porecki, Kepu (Hoskins 57); van der Merwe (c), Coleman; Rogerson, Cowan, Tuisue (Mafi 61).

Referee: Tom Foley