02:09AM, Tuesday 22 April 2014
Director of rugby Brian Smith admits the battle was won and lost in the first 40 minutes as London Irish’s spirited second-half comeback fell short against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens.
Aviva Premiership leaders Saints stormed into the lead and had a bonus point wrapped up just after half-time when Salesi Ma'afu charged over.
But the Exiles came roaring back in the second period as Andy Fenby, Shane Geraghty and Jebb Sinclair all went over to close the score to within eight points.
Marland Yarde then had a try ruled out for the visitors for a forward pass and the Saints managed to regain control late on, Alex Waller crossing with the final play of the game to seal a 36-21 win.
And though Smith could not fault his side’s commitment, he admits their rally after the break came too little, too late to hand the Saints their second loss on home turf in the Aviva Premiership this season.
"We rallied really well in the second half so I'm proud of that effort, but in the first half we made lots of silly errors," he said.
"We lost the game in the first half, but it's good that we showed that bit of character and it was a bit of a nail-biter there with the pass to Marland (Yarde, for the disallowed try).
"It would have made it interesting if we'd have got that try but I've got no complaints and we need to be more clinical. We lost the game in the first half.
"We've got to be better than that skill-set wise, but if we can show that character we'll be on the road to where we want to be.”
With two games remaining Irish can propel themselves up to eighth if results go their way – and will face Gloucester Rugby, who are just one place above in ninth, on Saturday.
And Smith admits Geraghty will have a huge part to play in the final say after the fly-half shrugged off fierce attention by the Saints to post an impressive display.
"Shane (Geraghty) got a big tackle early on and he was quite ill. He was throwing up for the next five or ten minutes and we kept a good eye on him,” added Smith.
"It was a good shot and it really rattled his cage, but he's a tough kid, a good competitor and he came back well. I can't speak highly enough of him."
To buy your tickets for the Aviva Premiership Rugby Final on 31 May at Twickenham go to www.tickethour.co.uk/premierrugby
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