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England fullback Furbank shines as stand-in skipper in bizarre Saints win

By PA
George Furbank of Northampton Saints dives in to score their fourth try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Northampton Saints and London Irish at Franklin's Gardens on September 17, 2022 in Northampton, England. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Stand-in skipper George Furbank scored 13 points as Northampton picked up their first win of the new Gallagher Premiership season with a 38-22 victory over London Irish.

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The margin of victory was comfortable for Saints, beaten at Sale last Sunday, but it did not tell the full story of what was an error-strewn and sometimes bizarre encounter.

At one point, the visitors were three men light due to various players being sent to the sin bin, although it was only after they were restored to full strength that the hosts pulled away.

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Northampton were forced into a late change when illness to Dan Biggar meant James Grayson came in at fly-half, with Furbank captaining the team in his absence.

Despite this, Saints opened the scoring in the ninth minute thanks to two moments of excellence from scrum-half Alex Mitchell, who collected his own chip before flinging a long pass right for Juarno Augustus to charge into the corner.

Grayson added the conversion but the hosts huffed and puffed for the remainder of a first half where the Exiles rued missed opportunities.

Their captain Adam Coleman had already been held up in-goal by the time a try for Henry Arundell was ruled out for a high hit by Tom Pearson on Northampton prop Alex Waller in the build-up.

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Pearson was sin-binned after a lengthy TMO check before Grayson extended the hosts’ lead to 10-0 with the resulting penalty.

Further yellow cards for Arundell (deliberately knocking the ball into touch) and Rob Simmons (collapsing a maul) before half-time meant Irish would start the second half with 12 men.

Despite this, a penalty by Paddy Jackson put the depleted visitors on the board before Northampton got their act together against 15 men as a good pass by Grayson gave Ollie Sleightholme an easy finish on the left.

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A third try for the hosts quickly followed in the 55th minute when Mitchell spotted a gap after picking up at a ruck and ghosting through some slack defence to run in under the posts.

Grayson then took the hosts’ advantage out to 25-3 with a penalty before Will Joseph scored the Exiles’ first try of the afternoon as he did well to gather Arundell’s off-load and finish.

The Exiles were suddenly sensing a comeback when they were awarded a penalty try for Grayson, who was sin-binned, deliberately knocking on Curtis Rona’s pass meant for Ben Donnell.

Furbank, however, calmed Northampton nerves with a penalty before he finally made sure of victory with seven minutes left by going in under the sticks after Alex Coles’ off-load.

He added the conversion and a second penalty before the visitors scored a consolation try off the final play of the match when Ollie Hassell-Collins went over from Arundell’s pass.

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