Saints squeeze past London Irish to maintain 100 per cent start to season

Dan Biggar kicked the winning penalty on his Saints return as Chris Boyd's side maintained their 100 per cent start to the season with a 23-21 win against London Irish.

By Tom Vickers
Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 4:15 pm
Updated Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 4:18 pm
Matt Proctor scored for Saints
Matt Proctor scored for Saints

It was nervy for the black, green and gold as Irish roared back from 17-0 down to lead 21-20 with six minutes to go.

But a moment of madness from Albert Tuisue, who put his head into the face of Alex Waller, handed Saints a penalty, and Biggar made no mistake.

Saints had come flying out of the blocks with tries from Tom Collins and Matt Proctor, but they were pegged back by an Agustin Creevy effort just before the break.

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Irish built on that in the second half, and they were being helped by Saints' sinning, with Api Ratuniyarawa and Paul Hill both yellow carded.

But after Tuisue offended late on, Biggar stepped up to notch the winning kick, to bring a huge roar from the cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens crowd.

Saints had been hit by two blows before kick-off as David Ribbans was ruled out due to illness, meaning Alex Coles was promoted to the starting 15, with Alex Moon on the bench.

Tommy Freeman warmed up but was unable to take his place among the replacements, with Ahsee Tuala coming into the matchday squad.

Saints didn't let the disruption affect them though, playing at a high tempo from the off and forcing a high tackle that allowed Biggar to open the scoring from the tee.

Saints were soon on the charge again, but Fraser Dingwall was stopped in his tracks by a big hit, ending a move that looked very promising.

But it didn't take too long for Saints to add to their lead as Collins flew in out wide after some sharp play from the hosts.

Biggar converted with aplomb from the touchline and the lead was 10-0 after 10 minutes.

Saints were asking all of the questions, forcing penalties and earning field position in the process.

And they made Irish pay again as Juarno Augustus brought the power and George Furbank added the precision, placing a perfectly-weighted kick for Proctor to score.

Biggar converted but Irish then started to mount a comeback, piling huge pressure on the hosts in their own half.

After a prolonged period camped in the Saints half, Irish eventually made it count thanks to a try from hooker Creevy.

Paddy Jackson easily added the extras and the gap was 10 points at half-time.

Irish started the second half in the same fashion they ended the first, piling the pressure on and forcing Ratuniyarawa into the sin bin.

It was penalty after penalty as Saints were submerged inside their own 22.

And eventually the pressure told as Hill joined Ratuniyarawa in the sin bin and Irish were awarded a penalty try.

Saints managed to limit the damage before being restored to a full complement and they finally mounted an attack of their own but Proctor lost the ball after flying forward.

And Irish were soon back at the Saints door as Collins flew out of the line and Ollie Hassell-Collins took advantage before giving the ball to Tom Parton for the score.

Jackson converted and Irish led for the first time with 15 minutes to go.

Saints were desperately seeking some momentum but they were losing lineouts and constantly losing the ball, with the Irish defence looking secure.

But Tuisue allowed Saints to retake the lead as the Irish No.8 conceded a penalty by putting his head into the face of Waller.

Biggar landed the penalty to bring a big cheer from the crowd with six minutes of the match remaining.

Irish had time for one final push when Saints conceded a penalty with 14 seconds to go, and it looked like Courtney Lawes might be in hot water with the TMO.

But referee Tom Foley rightly decided that Lawes had used his arms in a tackle and blew the final whistle to confirm the Saints win.

Saints: Furbank; Sleightholme, Proctor, Dingwall, Collins; Biggar, Mitchell; Auterac (Waller 50), Matavesi (Fish 63), Hill (Painter 57); Coles, Ratuniyarawa (Moon 66); Wood, Ludlam (c) (Lawes 55), Augustus (Harrison 57).

London Irish: Parton; Loader, Rona, van Rensburg (Williams 74), Hassell-Collins; Jackson, Phipps (White 54); Goodrick-Clarke (Dell 57), Creevy (Cornish 48), Hoskins (van der Merwe 57); Simmons, Coleman; Rogerson (c) (Nott 72), Donnell (O'Brien 40), Tuisue.

Referee: Tom Foley