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Match Report: Northampton Saints 38, London Irish 22



London Irish succumbed to a 38-22 defeat at the cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton Saints walking away with all five points available in Round 2 of the Gallagher Premiership.

Northampton took a 10-0 lead into the break after Juarno Augustus’ converted try and a James Grayson penalty, Irish losing personnel with three yellow cards late on into the first half.

Irish indeed scored the first points of the second half with a Paddy Jackson place kick, but Saints backs Ollie Sleightholme and Alex Mitchell rounding off the third quarter with a flurry from the men in Black, Green and Gold.

The visitors posed a question with a Will Joseph score and penalty try, but their opponents pulled away with George Furbank’s try securing the try bonus and Ollie Hassell-Collins five-pointer proving merely a consolation.

Saints threatened early with a catch and drive move after an Irish infringement from kick-off, but solid maul work from the Exiles forced a turnover in possession.

A Henry Arundell kick from hand into space saw the hosts pushed back into their own 22, and from the recovering phase, a knock-on was forced by Irish with the healthy territorial gain maintained.

Irish was penalised for not releasing in a mount towards the whitewash, and Northampton were first to get their names on the scoresheet 10 minutes in.

Alex Mitchell’s smart chip into the backfield and collection of the ball released the scrum-half into a large portion of the park beyond the Irish backline, then finding Juarno Augustus on the wing to touch down and James Grayson to convert.

Benhard van Rensburg’s brilliant tackle on Mitchell after resumption forced Saints in their tracks, the returning Matt Rogerson employing excellent groundwork before the Midlanders double movement to hand Irish back the ball.

Intent from Declan Kidney’s men was evident, but resolute Saints defence at the breakdown and then into the scrum after previous dominance for Irish meant the Exiles were muted in the opening quarter.

An early push at a lineout maul saw Irish work with the advantage, and after another set-piece move and several phases later, Adam Coleman looked to have stretch over the try line but was held up.

Play was stopped 12 minutes from half-time when Facundo Gigena took a heavy blow to the head in contact, with new signing Danilo Fischetti taking his place for the game’s remainder.

Adam Coleman’s race was run in the final 10 minutes of the half after an awkward step, former resident of Franklin’s Gardens Api Ratuniyarawa elected to take his place in the engine room.

In Irish’s time of need, van Rensburg’s recovery defence saw the centre take George Furbank to the floor and then field a nudge through to the line as Saints threatened.

A potential leveller was brought back by Pearce after a sensational breakway into the broken field from Curtis Rona which was eventually finished off by Henry Arundell, the score being chalked off due to a side entry in the build-up.

Grayson slotted the resulting penalty to extend his side’s lead to double figures before the interval.

Irish was reduced from their full complement even further, firstly after Arundell’s touch out of play deemed deliberate by referee Luke Pearce, and then a deliberate knock-on from Rob Simmons meant the Exiles would enter the second stanza down to 12 men.

Their blushes were spared as the clock went into the red and Saints attacked from a lineout, a spill from Sam Matavesi preventing a further punishment for the west Londoners as time went up.

Irish were the first to register points in the second forty, a knock-on from Saints and then illegal scrum handing Jackson a chance to split the posts left of centre from the 22, which the stand-off converted.

The Exiles had the rub off the green off the ball as Northampton closed the gap at the throw-in, but there was nothing lucky about Ollie Hassell-Collins and Danilo Fischetti’s defence on the left flank with the Italian pilfering back the ball.

Just as Pearson was reintroduced, Irish’s defensive output matched that of 15 men and more as Northampton found no way through, eventually forcing another Saints drop of the ball.

Northampton did get their second try despite Irish’s efforts, exposing a numerical advantage on the right channel to dot down via Ollie Sleightholme, but the try was unconverted to leave Irish 12 points adrift.

Mitchell’s smart snipe made up for the temporary points loss as the quick move took Saints further into comfort, Grayson making no mistake in front of the uprights.

The ascent of Phil Dowson’s side continued as Grayson kicked a second field goal as Irish didn’t roll away.

Irish made their imprint on the affair with an attacking try expected of the meeting of the sides, Hassell-Collins’ linebreak setting the tone before a feed to Arundell brought Irish closer.

The youngster’s smart step infield prevented the ball being take into touch and Arundell passed to fellow England international and replacement Will Joseph, collecting the offload well to touch down in a swift move involving all outside backs.

The Boys in Green had the taste for it- Curtis Rona making inroads through midfield after tracking his midfield partner van Rensburg, but his pass was deliberately blocked by Grayson and the fly-half saw yellow, Irish being awarded a penalty try as Donnell was in the clear.

Grayson edged Saints beyond 10 points from the tee after an Irish offside infringement, and the game was all but wrapped up as captain for the day George Furbank touched down from short range and Grayson converted.

Furbank took three points of his own late one, but the Exiles would have the last say with a flowing move that wasn’t Irish’s first of the day.

Hassell-Collins came with the touchdown with the clock in the red after linking up with Arundell, replacement Caolan Englefield skilfully putting away the extras swiftly from out wide to conclude 38-22 in favour of Northampton Saints.


Score sequence (London Irish second): 5-0, 7-0, 10-0, 10-3, 15-3, 20-3, 22-3, 25-3, 25-8, 25-15, 28-15, 33-15, 35-15, 38-15

Northampton Saints: Tries: Augustus (10), Sleightholme (52), Mitchell (56), Furbank (72); Conversions: Grayson (11) (57) (73); Penalties: Grayson (38) (61), Furbank (77).

London Irish: Tries: Joseph (64), Penatly Try (67); Penalties: Jackson (42).


Northampton Saints:

15 George Furbank (c), 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Rory Hutchinson (Litchfield 63), 11 Tom Collins (Skosan 75), 10 James Grayson, 9 Alex Mitchell (Braley 73); 1 Alex Waller (Iyogun 38), 2 Sam Matavesi (Heywood 59), 3 Paul Hill (Petch 51), 4 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Nansen 73), 5 Alex Moon, 6 Alex Coles, 7 Aaron Hinkley (Scott-Young 53), 8 Juarno Augustus.


16 Mike Haywood, 17 Emmanuel Iyogun, 18 Alfie Petch, 19 Brandon Nansen, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Tom Litchfield, 23 Courtnall Skosan.


London Irish:

15 Henry Arundell, 14 Ben Loader (Joseph 58), 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Benhard van Rensburg (Morisi 73), 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White (Englefield 55); 1 Facundo Gigena (Fischetti 28), 2 Matt Cornish (Miller 70), 3 Lovejoy Chawatama (Parker 58), 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman (c) (Ratuniyarawa 33), 6 Ben Donnell, 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Matt Rogerson (Cunningham-South 67).


16 Isaac Miller, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Chandler Cunningham-South, 21 Caolan Englefield, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Will Joseph.


Referee: Mr Luke Pearce

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby





Sale Sharks have agreed a deal to sign Fiji captain Waisea Nayacalevu from French Top14 side Toulon. 

The explosive centre, who starred for his country during the recent World Cup, has signed a one-year contract with an option for a further year. 

He will join up with Alex Sanderson’s Sharks squad ahead of the start of the 2024/25 Gallagher Premiership season. 

Waisea, 33, said: “I’ve watched the Premiership for a long time and it’s always been in the back of my mind that I would love to play there one day and experience rugby in England. 

“Now that opportunity has arrived and I’m really, really happy and grateful. I’m so excited to get over there and join the boys and see how I can contribute to the team. 

“I have spoken to Telusa Veainu and he only has positive things to say about the club and about Manchester. 

“I’m looking forward to playing with some of the guys I’ve played against, like Tom Curry and George Ford. But I also know there are a lot of really talented young players in the Sale Sharks squad and I’m excited to share my experience and help them develop as much as I can.  

“I told Alex that it’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years of my career and it’s something I’m passionate about.” 

Nayacalevu, who stands at 6’4” and weighs in at 16st 7lb, spent ten years at Top14 side Stade Français before making the switch to Toulon in 2022.  

He has won 34 caps for Fiji, slotting in at both centre and on the wing, and captained his country at last year’s World Cup, where the Pacific Islanders made the quarter-finals, losing 30-24 to England in Marseille. 

He also famously scored for Fiji in their memorable pre-World Cup win against England at Twickenham. 

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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Falcons star to join Saracens



Phil Brantingham to join Saracens

Tuesday 05 March 2024 Written by: Tom Grisedale

Prop-forward Phil Brantingham will leave Newcastle Falcons in the summer to join Saracens.

The 22-year-old has played 25 games for his home town club, and leaves with the thanks and best wishes of everyone at the Falcons.

Chairman of rugby Matt Thompson said: “Phil has done well for us and we made him a good offer to stay here.

“We respect his decision and wish him all the best for his move in the summer, but between now and then he will be fully committed to finishing the season strongly for Newcastle Falcons.”

Source – Newcastle Falcons Rugby

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Sale Sharks can confirm that forward Cobus Wiese will leave the club at the end of the season to return to South Africa. 

The 26-year-old lock has played almost 80 games for the club and scored five tries since joining from the DHL Stormers ahead of the 2020/21 season. 

He played a key role last year as Sale reached the Premiership final, and this season he has featured a further 13 times for Alex Sanderson’s side. 

Alex said: “Cobus will be missed by all of us on so many levels. He’s the most polite and courteous of people off the field, but the most wildly excitable man on the field, and on a night out. 

“To say Cobus wears his heart on his sleeve is to do him a disservice with regards to his emotional commitment for which his body has paid the price on occasion.  

“He leads by example and has earnt the respect and adoration of the group both on a professional and a personal level. We wish him every success and happiness with his move back home.” 

Everyone at Sale Sharks would like to thank Cobus for his contribution to the club and the team during his time here and we wish him all the very best for the future.  

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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