Irish must tackle early defensive frailties

London Irish must tackle early defensive frailties northampton saints
Josh McNally of London Irish in action against Alex Waller of Northampton Saints during the AVIVA Premiership rugby match between London Irish and Northampton Saints at Madejski Stadium, Reading, Berkshire on September 24th 2017. – PHOTO: Gareth Davies/PPAUK

It was a case of Déjà vu for London Irish and its director of rugby Nick Kennedy, as for the third week in a row the Exiles were blown away early on with Northampton Saints inflicting a 40-25 defeat at the Madejski Stadium.

Rather than attending last Sunday’s post-match press conference, however, Kennedy could easily have saved himself the bother and just referred the waiting media to his post-match comments following Irish’s defeat at Sale,

At the AJ Bell Stadium, Irish were left staring at a 24-0 deficit at Sharks after just 26 minutes, having been 20-0 down at Exeter Chiefs after 33 minutes.

In both cases, Irish made to pay heavily for two slow starts, which Kennedy conceded they needed to “address” against Saints, but any pre-match hopes of keeping it tight went out the window as early as the first minute, as Northampton scored the first of their seven tries.

Saints were in again just four minutes later and by the 33rd minute led 26-3, and the game was over.

London Irish must tackle early defensive frailties northampton saints
Alex Lewington of London Irish skips past the tackle from George North of Northampton Saints during the AVIVA Premiership rugby match between London Irish and Northampton Saints at Madejski Stadium, Reading, Berkshire on September 24th 2017. – PHOTO: Gareth Davies/PPAUK

Despite a strong second half showing from the Exiles, in which Tommy Bell, Alex Lewington and Josh McNally all touched down, Northampton were never in danger and the result never in doubt.

“For the third week in a row we gave ourselves a mountain to climb against a very good team,” said Kennedy. “Our overall work needs to improve.

“When we looked after the ball we looked dangerous, but we kept coughing up the ball which was frustrating.

“We’ve conceded a lot of points but we always knew how hard it would be. We knew it would be a tough season.”

If they can’t tighten it up defensively, particularly early on, it promises to be a very long season for Irish.

Dean Richards’ high flying Newcastle Falcons side made it three wins from four at the weekend with a mightily impressive 33-32 victory at Bath, and will now be lying in wait for the Exiles on Friday night at Kingston Park.

Low scorers

It’s a short turn around for Irish, but they can take grains of hope from the fact that Newcastle are low scorers. Richards’ side have amassed 88 points from the opening four rounds of Aviva Premiership action (Irish have 78), but they boast a mean defence, having conceded just 81 points to Irish’s 142.

The odds will certainly favour Newcastle, but with Worcester at home to Saracens the same evening (an unenviable task at the best of times) Irish must be positive as they head to the north-east, and see this as an opportunity to put some daylight between themselves and Warriors.

The only consolation for Irish from the weekend was Worcester Warriors slipping to a 24-19 defeat at Gloucester. A good finish from the Warriors saw them pick up a losing bonus-point, their first of the season.


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