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James O'Connor concedes pace of Aviva Premiership took him by surprise after London Irish debut against Northampton
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James O'Connor acknowledged that the pace of the Aviva Premiership had taken him by surprise after his debut for London Irish ended in a narrow defeat to the Northampton Saints.
The Australian - who has signed for the Exiles on a short-term contract as he bids to get his career back on track after disciplinary problems in his homeland - produced a hugely promising individual display as his new side went down 19-14.
His performance was described by Irish director of rugby Brian Smith as "outstanding", but the 23-year-old conceded that he had been taken aback by the tempo of the contest.
"The speed of the game was very surprising," he said. "I thought Super Rugby was fast but I was really blowing out there, that's for sure.
"It felt great. The club and all the boys have been awesome since I arrived and I am really looking forward to my time here.
"I didn't feel 100 percent and can get better. I wanted to perform. It was one of the best pitches I have played on. It was just a shame we could not get the win."
O'Connor set up the hosts' lone try from wing Sailosi Tagicakibau and Smith praised the new arrival for how he had handled himself since arriving earlier in the week.
"James was outstanding," Smith said. "He's 23 and is still just a kid who gets up in the morning and puts his trousers on one leg at a time like everyone else.
Praise from Smith
"A lot has happened quickly to him but he's settled in straight away and showed his class today. The boys enjoyed playing with him today.
"We see him as 15, even though many see him as a jack of all trades who has played right along the back line. And he wants to establish himself as a full-back."
Irish remained near the foot of the table after failing to capitalise on their second-half dominance, failing to convert their try-scoring chances as they looked to overturn a 16-11 interval deficit.
Northampton boss Jim Mallinder was delighted to see his side grind out a fifth victory in seven league outings, especially having lost a number of his most influential performers to international duty.
"We made heavy work of it, but a win is a win," Mallinder stated. "Irish are a tough challenge here, so I have to be pleased."
"We have lost a lot of our players to England but we are managing to get by fine. It's important we maintain our momentum and this will help."
Northampton flanker Phil Dowson, who produced a man-of-the-match performance, added: "The final whistle could not come quickly enough. We were under real pressure from them.
"It was a gutsy performance and another crucial win. It always feels good to get a win away from home."
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|Friday 24th April|
|19:45||Bath vs London Irish|
|Saturday 25th April|
|14:00||Sale vs Harlequins|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Leicester vs London Welsh|
|15:15||Northampton vs Saracens|
|Sunday 26th April|
|14:00||Wasps vs Exeter|
|Friday 8th May|
|19:45||Harlequins vs Bath|
|Saturday 9th May|
|14:00||Sale vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Northampton vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Gloucester vs London Irish|
|15:15||Wasps vs Leicester Tigers|
|Sunday 10th May|
|14:00||Saracens vs Exeter|
|Saturday 16th May|
|15:30||Exeter vs Sale|
|15:30||Leicester vs Northampton|
|15:30||Bath vs Gloucester|
|15:30||Newcastle vs Harlequins|
|15:30||London Irish vs Wasps|
|15:30||London Welsh vs Saracens|
|Sunday 12th April|
|London Irish 25 - 23 Sale Sharks|
|London Welsh 13 - 40 Wasps|
|Exeter 21 - 10 Northampton|
|Saturday 11th April|
|Saracens 22 - 6 Leicester Tigers|
|Harlequins 29 - 26 Gloucester|
|Friday 10th April|
|Newcastle Falcons 19 - 29 Bath|
|Sunday 29th March|
|London Welsh 14 - 29 Bath|
|Sale Sharks 23 - 6 Gloucester|
|Saturday 28th March|
|Saracens 42 - 14 Harlequins|
|London Irish 22 - 21 Newcastle Falcons|
|Leicester Tigers 25 - 18 Exeter|
|Friday 27th March|
|Northampton 52 - 30 Wasps|
|Sunday 8th March|
|Newcastle Falcons 12 - 16 Leicester Tigers|
|Wasps 17 - 26 Saracens|
|Saturday 7th March|
|Gloucester 33 - 33 Northampton|
|Exeter 74 - 19 London Welsh|
|Harlequins 26 - 20 London Irish|
|Friday 6th March|
|Bath 12 - 3 Sale Sharks|
|Sunday 1st March|
|Wasps 32 - 21 Gloucester|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Exeter 16 - 6 Bath|
|Saracens 22 - 17 Newcastle Falcons|
|Leicester Tigers 28 - 8 Sale Sharks|
|London Welsh 12 - 50 London Irish|
|Friday 27th February|
|Northampton 17 - 13 Harlequins|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com