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Aviva Premiership: Northampton battle to a hard-fought victory
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Northampton cemented their position behind table-toppers Saracens with battling Aviva Premiership victory at London Irish.
Full-back James Wilson crossed for Saints in the first half and fly-half Stephen Myler kicked 14 points as they made it five league wins from seven matches with a 19-14 success.
Wing Sailosi Tagicakibau grabbed the Irish try with number 10 Ian Humphreys adding his side's extras with the boot.
All eyes were on controversial Australian James O'Connor who took centre stage for his Irish debut just a few days after signing a contract until the end of the season.
The versatile 23-year-old Queenslander, who has amassed 223 points in 44 caps for the Wallabies, took his bow at full-back and impressed throughout with his running skills as he seeks to rebuild his career following a series of off-field misdemeanours.
O'Connor was in the thick of the action from the start with a pass which almost put wing Topsy Ojo in for a try. But he was powerless to stop Saints from taking the lead as a Myler penalty pushed them ahead after Irish infringed at a ruck.
Humphreys replied for the hosts after Northampton were guilty of illegally playing the ball on the ground at a ruck.
Saints power ahead
Myler regained the lead for Saints with a penalty which deflected over off the inside of the right post and Wilson raced over for the opening try, cutting in off the right wing and taking a reverse pass from George Pisi in his stride to go over the line virtually untouched.
Myler converted and added a further penalty as Saints showed no signs of missing their England contingent of Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Lee Dickson and Ben Foden.
Humphreys slotted home a three-pointer in between Myler's conversion and third penalty success and Irish suddenly found an extra gear on the stroke of half-time with quick ball from a ruck being swept along the line and O'Connor's final pass to Tagicakibau put the wing over for a fine try.
Trailing 16-11 at half-time, Irish were right back in the contest. However, they failed to build on that promise and they were unable to force their way over in the second period despite a dogged effort.
O'Connor showed his class and skill with a silky run through the Saints defence before being stopped in his tracks. Humphreys missed a difficult penalty chance but succeeded with his next effort to close the gap to just two points.
However, Myler responded in kind with his own penalty and Irish's late pressure - with one move lasting 25 phases - failed to break the Saints resolve.
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|Sunday 23rd November|
|15:15||London Welsh vs Leicester Tigers|
|Friday 28th November|
|19:45||Bath vs Harlequins|
|Saturday 29th November|
|15:00||Leicester Tigers vs Wasps|
|16:30||Exeter vs Saracens|
|Sunday 30th November|
|13:00||London Irish vs Gloucester|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Northampton|
|15:15||Newcastle vs Sale|
|Saturday 20th December|
|14:00||Sale vs Exeter|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Bath|
|15:00||Saracens vs London Welsh|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Newcastle|
|15:00||Northampton vs Leicester|
|Sunday 21st December|
|14:00||Wasps vs London Irish|
|Friday 26th December|
|15:00||London Irish vs London Welsh|
|Saturday 27th December|
|14:00||Sale vs Leicester|
|15:00||Bath vs Exeter|
|15:00||Gloucester vs Wasps|
|15:00||Harlequins vs Northampton|
|15:00||Newcastle vs Saracens|
|Saturday 3rd January|
|15:00||Exeter vs Gloucester|
|15:00||Saracens vs London Irish|
|15:00||Leicester vs Bath|
|15:00||Northampton vs Newcastle|
|Sunday 4th January|
|14:00||Wasps vs Sale|
|14:30||London Welsh vs Harlequins|
|Sunday 23rd November|
|Saracens 24 - 31 Northampton|
|Saturday 22nd November|
|London Irish 23 - 33 Bath|
|Exeter 31 - 15 Wasps|
|Friday 21st November|
|Newcastle Falcons 20 - 10 Gloucester|
|Harlequins 12 - 16 Sale Sharks|
|Sunday 16th November|
|Wasps 71 - 7 London Welsh|
|Leicester Tigers 21 - 21 Saracens|
|Saturday 15th November|
|Bath 23 - 14 Newcastle Falcons|
|Sale Sharks 36 - 8 London Irish|
|Friday 14th November|
|Gloucester 15 - 22 Harlequins|
|Northampton 18 - 24 Exeter|
|Sunday 12th October|
|Wasps 29 - 22 Bath|
|Saturday 11th October|
|Northampton 43 - 10 Sale Sharks|
|Saracens 28 - 21 Gloucester|
|Exeter 44 - 24 London Irish|
|London Welsh 3 - 23 Newcastle|
|Friday 10th October|
|Leicester 22 - 16 Harlequins|
|Sunday 5th October|
|Newcastle 29 - 24 Exeter|
|Sale 25 - 14 Wasps|
|Saturday 4th October|
|Gloucester 33 - 16 Leicester|
|Harlequins 52 - 0 London Welsh|
|London Irish 12 - 19 Northampton|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com