Mallinder demands improvement despite victory

Salesi Ma'afu scores his first Saints try against London Irish (pictures: James Phillips/Linda Dawson)
Salesi Ma'afu scores his first Saints try against London Irish (pictures: James Phillips/Linda Dawson)

Jim Mallinder saw Saints survive a late scare against London Irish before stressing the need to improve for the testing games ahead.

Mallinder’s men flew into a 29-0 lead at Franklin’s Gardens, only to be pegged back before securing a 36-21 success.

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140420-164245006

Pictures by Linda Dawson NNL-140420-164245006

Tries from Jamie Elliott, who scored twice, Kahn Fotuali’i, Salesi Ma’afu and Alex Waller got the job done.

But it wasn’t without anxiety as three quickfire scores from Irish brought them back to within eight points, and they also had an effort chalked off for a forward pass.

Mallinder was happy with the five points that push his side seven clear of third in the race for a top-two spot, but admits his side must improve in the coming weeks.

“The first 10 minutes of the second half was pretty good, but we got our bonus point and then seemed to slip off,” he said.

“It got a little bit squeaky and it’s really disappointing. It’s a game where we could have finished with a convincing win but it ended up being a little bit in the balance.

“We came back well in the end and with 14 men (after Waller was sin-binned) there was a massive scrum that was key.

“The last 10 minutes we got that intensity back, but we need to be better when we come up against the good sides later this season. We need to be better than what we were today.

“One of the big positives is that we got the five points and it is in our hands with two games to go.

“We just need to keep winning and we’ve got a very good chance of getting that home semi-final.”

Saints are currently struggling for numbers in the hooker department, with Dylan Hartley and Mike Haywood both sidelined with shoulder injuries.

And they were hit with another blow against Irish, as youngster Matt Williams was stretched off with a broken leg.

“It’s a real shame for him,” said Mallinder. “He’s a really promising hooker, loads of potential, has played well for us this season, but that will be his season over.

“Hopefully he can come back stronger for next season.”