Record crowd for Irish but Saints spoil the party


London Irish 22 : 42 Northampton Saints

It was a wonderful day for London Irish at Brentford Community Stadium. 15,085 a record attendance witnessed an enthralling game of rugby union, replete with talking points.

The Exiles’ Nick Phipps came back from a yellow that contributed to destroying his side’s chances to score two late tries that made the scoreline almost respectable.

Irish scored the first eight and the last 14 points but were utterly outplayed during the period inbetween.

It has to be said that the Irish indiscipline also became a talking point for Declan Kidney’s side who suffered two yellow cards and played 1/4 of the game a man down.

That those offences  came from two of their most experienced players was also an indictment of club leadership. The second caution also included a penalty try and was a moment of utter recklessness; perhaps the moment that finally sealed Irish’s fate, even though it came shortly after half time.

Irish were reduced to 14 before half time when 32-year-old Aussie Rob Simmons was adjudged to have cleared illegally from the breakdown and made contact with Rory Hutchinson’s head, resulting in scrum caps being thrown in anger.

Another Aussie, 33-year-old Phipps collapsed a maul to prevent Sam Matavesi’s try and not only was he asked to leave, but referee Wayne Barnes awarded a penalty try to take the Saints lead to 21-8 after the interval.

Elsewhere, there were wins for Saracens, Wasps and Leicester
Design: Gallagher Premiership

Northampton took full advantage of the home side’s chaos. Two minutes later, Alex Mitchell was put through easily and the game was out of the Exiles’ reach.

Five minutes later, Fraser Dingwall piled on the agony.

It was way too easy for the visitors now who were breaking through at will against a side who had been down to 14 men for over 20 minutes at that point.

Not long after Dingwall’s score, it began to look like Northampton were on their way to a cricket score, at least one that England would achieve in Australia, when Tom Collins scored a superb individual try.

He touched down when following up his own very clever kick and then was the first to predict its bounce.

Dan Biggar added the extras for the fifth time to extend the lead to an impressive 42-8.

Phipps went partway to redeem himself by scoring two very late, very consolation tries for Irish but it was too little too late.

However yesterday was about far more than rugby.

This was London Irish’s first St Patrick’s Day Party at their new Brentford home with fans in attendance.

Much attention was focused on the crowd they could draw and whether they would set a new club record.

They did. The stadium was fuller than this total suggests due to the many school parties, some from as far afield as Havant and Milton Keynes. Notably the latter is far nearer to their opponents home, just 20 miles away. Despite some of the more garish manifestations of Irishness, there were plenty of international jerseys from across the globe on show.

This may indicate that there is a real possibility of turning this occasion into a bash for London’s entire rugby community, especially those from other rugby playing nations. The commercial possibilities are limitless for turning South Africans, Kiwis and Australians into London Irish regulars.

Add in the sad fact that London Welsh and London Scottish are unlikely to begin to compete at this level, then there’s mileage in the fact that neither Saracens or Harlequins have the word London in their name, and the Exiles could morph into London’s team.

Oddly though, they may have a very close local rivalry soon when Ealing Trailfinders find a stadium that meets the Minimum Stadium Criteria.

The Trailfinders are just 3.5 miles away, closer even than Brentford FC’s close rivals Fulham. They and Doncaster have both been informed they do not meet the criteria for promotion but intend to appeal once promotion is mathematically secured.

London Irish St Paddy’s Day Party

There was music and a bouncy castle around the stadium and children galore. Folk bands both formal and very much informal played Irish music around the stadium.

Inside they had a sound system set up and the Reels played before the game starting off to an empty stadium to usher people in from the concourse and the bars therein.

After the game, Biblecode Sunday entertained and many stayed outside in some wonderful Middlesex sunshine to drink beer, enjoy the music and watch the grass grow.

The poor result had dampened as much as the sunshine; ie nothing.

If the club were experimenting and perhaps dabbling their feet a little, given the number of firsts; they can look back on the day with some degree of satisfaction.

It will be interesting to see what conclusions the club will draw out of the 2021/22 St Paddy’s Day Party, other than collapsing a maul on your own line is not as smart as it first seems.

More immediately, the Exiles hopes of finishing in the top four was harmed by the loss to direct rival but just four points lie between Irish in 8th and Exeter Chiefs in 4th.

The Saints host the Bristol Bears on April 2nd next while Irish have a really tough looking outing at home to Harlequins the next day, and enter it with a negative points difference which cannot be good for morale.

Saints have a game in hand over both Exeter and Sale, neither of whom won at the weekend.

On this form, they may even be amongst the favourites to pip that 4th place, although Gloucester have an additional game in hand.


London Irish: Tries: Hassell-Collins (7) Phipps (74) (79); Conversions: Jackson (74) (79); Penalties: Jackson (10)

Northampton Saints: Tries: Collins (23) (62) Hutchinson (23) Penalty (43) Mitchell (48) Dingwall (53); Conversions: Biggar (23) (25 (48) (53) Hutchinson (62)


London Irish:

15 James Stokes (Parton 38), 14 Kyle Rowe (White 56), 13 Lucio Cinti, 12 Benhard van Rensburg, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke (Gigena 63), 2 Agustin Creevy (Cornish 63), 3 Ollie Hoskins (Green 66), 4 Chunya Munga (Nott 56), 5 Rob Simmons, 6 Matt Rogerson (c) (Pearson 55), 7 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 8 Seán O’Brien (Cracknell 50 (O’Brien 60 HIA)).


16 Matt Cornish, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Luke Green, 19 George Nott, 20 Tom Pearson, 21 Olly Cracknell, 22 Ben White, 23 Tom Parton.

Northampton Saints:

15 George Furbank, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Fraser Dingwall, 12 Rory Hutchinson (Litchfield 65), 11 Tom Collins, 10 Dan Biggar (Litchfield 56), 9 Alex Mitchell (James 56); 1 Alex Waller (Auterac 55), 2 Sam Matavesi, 3 Paul Hill (Carey 59), 4 David Ribbans (Moon 58), 5 Api Ratuniyarawa, 6 Courtney Lawes (Haywood 66), 7 Lewis Ludlam (c), 8 Juarno Augustus.


16 Mike Haywood, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Conor Carey, 19 Alex Moon, 20 Alex Coles, 21 Tom James, 22 Tom Litchfield, 23 Tommy Freeman.

Referee: Mr Wayne Barnes

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