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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 27th February|
|19:45||Northampton vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 28th February|
|14:30||London Welsh vs London Irish|
|15:00||Saracens vs Newcastle Falcons|
|15:00||Leicester Tigers vs Sale Sharks|
|15:15||Exeter vs Bath|
|Sunday 1st March|
|13:00||Wasps vs Gloucester|
|Friday 6th March|
|19:45||Bath vs Sale|
|Saturday 7th March|
|15:00||Exeter vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs London Irish|
|15:15||Gloucester vs Northampton|
|Sunday 8th March|
|14:00||Wasps vs Saracens|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Leicester|
|Friday 27th March|
|19:45||Northampton vs Wasps|
|Saturday 28th March|
|15:00||London Irish vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Leicester vs Exeter|
|15:15||Saracens vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 29th March|
|14:00||Sale vs Gloucester|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Bath|
|Friday 10th April|
|19:45||Newcastle vs Bath|
|Saturday 11th April|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Gloucester|
|15:15||Saracens vs Leicester|
|Sunday 12th April|
|14:00||Exeter vs Northampton|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Wasps|
|15:00||London Irish vs Sale|
|Saturday 25th April|
|14:00||Sale vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 22nd February|
|London Irish 6 - 12 Leicester Tigers|
|Saturday 21st February|
|Bath 13 - 21 Northampton|
|Harlequins 21 - 32 Exeter|
|Gloucester 48 - 10 London Welsh|
|Sale Sharks 14 - 10 Saracens|
|Friday 20th February|
|Newcastle 23 - 23 Wasps|
|Sunday 15th February|
|Wasps 37 - 6 Harlequins|
|London Welsh 12 - 52 Sale|
|Saracens 34 - 24 Bath|
|Saturday 14th February|
|Exeter 46 - 17 Newcastle|
|Friday 13th February|
|Leicester 18 - 15 Gloucester|
|Northampton 15 - 9 London Irish|
|Sunday 11th January|
|London Irish 28 - 26 Exeter|
|Newcastle 38 - 7 London Welsh|
|Saturday 10th January|
|Harlequins 32 - 12 Leicester|
|Bath 39 - 26 Wasps|
|Sale Sharks 20 - 7 Northampton|
|Friday 9th January|
|Gloucester 24 - 23 Saracens|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com