Myler kicks Saints to crucial win over London Irish

BANG! - Luther Burrell gets his man during Saints' win at London Irish (Pictures: Linda Dawson)

BANG! - Luther Burrell gets his man during Saints' win at London Irish (Pictures: Linda Dawson)

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Saints banished their Madejski Stadium demons with a superb defensive performance in a 19-14 win against London Irish.

James Wilson’s first-half try and 14 points from the boot of metronome Stephen Myler ensured Jim Mallinder’s men suffered no repeat of last October’s Reading rout.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Instead, it was a display full of desire and resilience as Irish could only claim a losing bonus point thanks to Sailosi Tagicakibau’s score and nine points from fly-half Ian Humphreys.

Saints had held a 13-3 lead at one point, but were made to battle all the way to claim their fifth win in seven Aviva Premiership games this season.

Even more impressively, they did it without eight men who would have been in the starting shake-up as international call-ups left the squad needing to step up.

And, just as they had eight days earlier, in the stunning win against Saracens, Saints showed their strength in depth with players such as Wilson and Tom Collins playing their part in a big away effort.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Saints had failed to taste victory in any of the previous three away games in all competitions, but they were to ensure that run ended here.

The victory was built on a strong start as Myler put them the right areas and Irish were forced into conceding a penalty in front of the posts.

Myler, who had landed 27 of his previous 31 kicks at goal in the Premiership, easily slotted it to put his side in front, but Humphreys quickly levelled matters at the other end.

Saints were doing well in possession, though, keeping Irish under pressure and another penalty saw Myler sneak another three points off the inside of the right post.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Despite the best efforts of the fired up PA announcer, who sounded like a character from the Pirates of the Caribbean, Irish were struggling to get out of their own half.

The home side had held their own up front, but they could do nothing to stop the Northampton backs as George Pisi sent a nice pass inside to Wilson, who scored.

Myler added the extras to give his team a 10-point advantage and it was a very different start to the last meeting between the teams on Madejski turf, which ended 39-17 in Irish’s favour.

Brian Smith’s side needed some points to spark them into life and Humphreys provided them with a simple penalty from in front of the posts.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Saints then suffered another problem as injury struck with No.8 Sam Dickinson replaced by GJ van Velze.

And a further blow came from Irish No.7 Ofisa Treviranus as he pushed his hand in Salesi Ma’afu’s face, escaping a card but seeing Irish’s penalty award reversed.

Saints couldn’t make the most of the lineout deep in enemy territory, but they were continuing to crank up the heat in the scrum, winning another kickable penalty.

Myler made it with a brilliant swish of the boot from close to halfway and his team had restored their 10-point lead with five minutes to go before the break.

But Irish, who had shown little during the first half got back to within five on the brink of half-time, as the flashy James O’Connor sent the ball wide for Tagicakibau to score.

The conversion was missed, but Saints headed in knowing they still had plenty of work to do during the second half.

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson

They emerged with the bit between their teeth, but the continual use of the forwards was not blasting the desired holes in the Irish defence.

The scrum was a welcome weapon, though, and Saints squeezed another penalty out of referee Andrew Small, but Myler missed a tricky kick from the left of the posts.

Irish opted to change their props in a bid to stem the tide at the set piece but it was in the backs where they were improving most, with O’Connor causing plenty of problems.

Saints, to their credit, were defending manfully, with England hopeful Luther Burrell in particular showing his ability with some huge hits.

Irish were stepping on the accelerator, though, and Humphreys, having missed a minute earlier, brought his side back to within two with a penalty in front of the posts.

The home crowd were lifted and the bell was ringing for a late rally, but Myler’s penalty silenced that din momentarily.

The fly-half then missed the chance to put his team eight points up with eight minutes to go but it wasn’t to matter as Saints put the shutters down to claim a fine win.

Match facts

London Irish: O’Connor; Ojo, Mulchrone, Sheridan, Tagicakibau (Lewington 78); Humphreys, O’Leary (c) (Allinson 78); Yapp (Parr 49), Paice, Halavatau (Hagan 49), Gough, Evans, Cowan, Treviranus (Danaher 78), Hala’ufia (Low 56).

Replacements not used: Mayhew, Geraghty.

Saints: Wilson; K Pisi, G Pisi (Waldouck 62), Burrell, Collins; Myler, Fotuali’i; A Waller (E Waller 70), Haywood (McMillan 78), Ma’afu (Mercey 56), Manoa (Nutley 59), Day, Clark, Dowson (c), Dickinson (van Velze 27).

Replacements not used: Glynn, G Dickson.

Referee: Andrew Small

Attendance: 7,247

Pictures by Linda Dawson

Pictures by Linda Dawson