Premiership: London Irish 12-19 Northampton Saints
|London Irish (0) 12|
|Pens: Geraghty 4|
|Northampton Saints (10) 19|
|Try: Burrell Con: Myler Pens: Myler 4|
Champions Northampton Saints went top of the Premiership with a scrappy win over London Irish.
Stephen Myler's penalty put Saints in front and Luther Burrell drove to the line for the only try of an otherwise lacklustre first half.
The second period proved equally uninspiring as Shane Geraghty was on target four times and Myler twice in a series of exchanged penalties.
Myler was on target once more but Irish still took a deserved bonus point.
Saints may have lacked the attacking instinct that saw them beat Bath 31-24 last week, but their ability to see themselves home against an emerging Irish side is a useful characteristic to be able to call on.
Irish have now played all of last season's top four and, after going close against Harlequins and Saracens, they showed their continued improvement with a notable victory over Leicester last week.
|No Saints bonus|
|This was only the second time since Northampton returned to the Premiership in 2008 that Saints have failed to take a bonus point from London Irish (Source: Opta)|
They fell short against the champions this time around but were rarely outclassed by Jim Mallinder's men, and were essentially beaten by a game of penalties in the second half.
Saints were without England forwards Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood with back injuries and, spurred on by Halani Aulika and George Skivington, the Exiles were able to match power in the pack in a game that lacked guile and invention.
After Myler's early penalty, Saints landed the only try of the game as George North found space and fed Burrell, who was able to slide over despite the efforts of Geraghty.
Myler converted, but ex-Saints player Geraghty had the visitors back within touching distance with two efforts off the tee after the break.
The pair exchanged two more penalties apiece to maintain the four-point gap.
And, while Ben Foden could have made it more comfortable late on when he fumbled close to the line, a Myler kick eventually put the result beyond doubt.
Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder:
"We said beforehand that if we got a three-point win here that would do, instead we got a seven-point win.
"Irish have been playing well and in the second half they put us under pressure.
"Sometimes you base away games on your defence and we were outstanding in that department."
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith:
"This is the best team in England and we got ourselves in the position of giving ourselves a shot. We came up just short.
"Week-on-week we're earning the respect of our opponents and that's phase one for us at the moment.
"The next step we must take is to put these teams away."
London Irish: Fenby; Lewington, Mulchrone, Geraghty, Short; Noakes, O'Leary; Court, Paice, Aulika; Skivington (capt), Sinclair; Low, Cowan, Narraway.
Replacements: Stevens, Parr, Cross, Leo, Guest, Allinson, Sheridan, Ojo.
Northampton: Foden; K Pisi, G Pisi, Burrell, North; Myler, Dickson (capt); A Waller, Haywood, Ma'afu; Lawes, Craig; Clark, Fisher, Manoa.
Replacements: McMillan, E Waller, Denman, Dowson, Harrison, Fotuali'i, Hooley, Collins.
Referee: Matthew Carley