Disciplined, united, determined. These are the principles London Irish should play by; the new head coach Tom Coventry’s philosophy and the way he thinks that the Exiles will win games. On Boxing Day London Irish stuck to these principles and achieved a long awaited Premiership victory over last season’s table toppers no less. Admittedly this was not the same Saints as last season. They were weighed down by the pressure of not scoring a try in two consecutive matches, and missing the titanic force of Samu Manoa at lock who left for Toulon at the end of season.
Tom Coventry’s Philosophy Takes Hold
Despite this, what can be drawn for the game is that Irish are a team full of determination, refusing to yield when down to 14 men and losing by 5 points with five minutes to go.
When he first arrived Coventry acknowledged the Exiles’ history of playing expansive, exciting rugby. However; at times this has hindered Irish this season as instead of kicking for territory they play too much rugby in their own half, sometimes resulting in a mistake which hands possession and territory back to the opposition, pressurising the defence.
This was not the case on Saturday as both Brendan McKibbin and Chris Noakes controlled the game, from scrum half and fly half respectively, kicking for the corners when their backline failed to penetrate the Northampton defence. Noakes also contributed impressively with goalkicking; his touchline conversion ultimately proving the difference between the sides.
It was not just the half backs who played well. Before joining London Irish, Coventry was the forwards coach at the successful Chiefs who won the Super Rugby title in both 2012 and 2013 whilst Coventry was involved and he still coaches the forwards at the Exiles. As such it would have pleased him greatly to see the pack operate a hugely effective driving maul in both attack and defence; bully Northampton’s forwards in the contact area and score a penalty try from a powerful 5m scrum. There were also some moments of magic from the London Irish forwards none less than Luke Narraway’s skilful offload to David Paice to create their second try.
However; the most pleasing aspect of the win for both Coventry and the London Irish supporters is the confidence that it will give them embarking on a crucial run of games starting with Gloucester at Kingsholm.