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'There's nothing expected of us, so we've said we'd enjoy the journey'

By PA
London Irish v Northampton Saints – Gallagher Premiership – Gtech Community Stadium

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney downplayed his side’s play-off chances after a 37-22 victory at the Gtech Community Stadium saw them leapfrog Northampton into a top-four spot.

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Scores from So’otala Fa’aso’o and Tom Pearson alongside the boot of Paddy Jackson gave the hosts a seven-point lead at the interval, with Saints responding through a Fin Smith penalty and a Juarno Augustus try.

Irish kept their foot on the gas after half-time, with Ben Loader and Chunya Munga’s tries securing the bonus point, while Jackson also added a long-range drop goal to the highlight reel.

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While Saints played their part with scores from Tommy Freeman and captain Lewis Ludlam, the visitors were overwhelmed by a perfectly executed game plan from Irish.

Kidney said: “There’s no pressure, and there’s nothing expected of us, so we’ve said we’d enjoy the journey.

“I’m sure if you ran down to some of the betting offices you wouldn’t get many that said we had a good chance of making it to the top four with three games to go, but what about it?

“We’re happy enough, it was a good day and it was a good game of rugby of two good sides going at it.

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“We probably had more opportunities and took them than we let them have, and that was a big difference in the game.

“They came out very well at points, but our defence stood strong and we were on point today, and it’s a credit to the coaches and the players.

“We have the challenge of it being four weeks to go until our next match, but now is the time to enjoy the moment.

“We have to find a way to be ready in four weeks time to take on the league leaders (Saracens) on their home patch.”

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Northampton slipped to fifth.

Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson said: “We knew it was a huge opportunity and we were playing a good side, but not enough of our game was at the requisite level.

“We didn’t perform well enough for long enough periods which is a bit of a headscratcher because at times at home we’ve been really good, and away from home we haven’t.

“I don’t think we were lacking energy, we’ve worked on our defensive alignment, got into good spaces and then didn’t complete enough tackles or slow them down.

“Their attack is excellent, if they get fast ball they cut you up and we had to scramble at several occasions.

“There is still a mathematical opportunity to get into the play-offs, so we’re still gonna go for it.

“We’ve got a great group of lads, there’s never a lack of energy or effort, it’s a lack of execution.

“We’ve got a week off next week to regather and recover for Saracens and Newcastle and make sure we give ourselves the best opportunity.”

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