Saints escape passionate London Irish
Irish threatened to claim only their second Premiership Rugby win of the season when two opportunistic tries from winger Alex Lewington put them 14-3 up at half-time.
But the Saints stormed back early in the second period, scoring three times in the 10 minutes after half-time.
George North, Rob Horne and Mike Haywood all dotted down for the home side, and Piers Francis made the game safe with a drop goal.
Irish had got exactly the start they wanted, after playing the first five minutes on the front foot, they were presented with an opportunity.
Northampton’s passing was poor and after the ball went loose, wing Lewington pounced, kicking ahead and diving to dot down.
Fly-half Tonks landed the conversion to take his team to an early 7-0 lead and they then defended strongly, stopping the Saints from issuing an immediate riposte.
And Lewington made them pay by reaching the ball first after hesitancy from Wales star North and the Irish winger dived over to score his and his team’s second try.
Tonks made it 14-0 with the successful conversion before Francis narrowed the gap with a penalty.
However, the Saints were soon marching towards the Irish line in the second half, as North scored within a minute of the restart.
Francis converted to cut Irish’s lead to four points and Northampton soon ensured it would be they who led as Luther Burrell sent Horne over in the corner.
Francis missed the conversion, but the Saints held one-point advantage and that was soon eight points as Haywood powered over and Francis converted.
Tonks responded with a penalty for Irish, but Francis cancelled it out with an intelligent and timely drop goal eight minutes from time to seal it.
For Northampton Saints:
Tries: North, Horne, Haywood
Cons: Francis 2
For London Irish:
Tries: Lewington 2
Cons: Tonks 2
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 George North, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Teimana Harrison, 7 Heinrich Brüssow, 6 Jamie Gibson, 5 Christian Day (captain), 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Mikey Haywood, 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Replacements: 16 Reece Marshall, 17 Francois van Wyk, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 David Ribbans, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Stephen Myler, 23 Nafi Tuitavake.
London Irish: 15 James Marshall, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Alex Lewington, 10 Greig Tonks, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Max Northcote-Green, 6 Arno Botha, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Franco van der Merwe (captain), 3 Ollie Hoskins, 2 David Paice, 1 Ben Franks.
Replacements:16 Dave Porecki, 17 Harry Elrington, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Sebastian De Chaves, 20 Conor Gilsenan, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Tommy Bell, 23 Aseli Tikoirotuma
Referee: Ian Tempest
Assistant Referees: Simon Harding & Jonathan Healy.
TMO: Trevor Fisher.