London Irish (6) 20 Tries: Thorpe, Mapusua Cons: Homer 2 Pens: Homer 2 Northampton (13) 26 Tries: Ashton 2 Cons: Myler 2 Pens: Myler 4
Ashton celebrates as he helps Northampton claim a play-off spot
England wing Chris Ashton's two tries all but secured Northampton Saints' Premiership play-off place as they ended London Irish's chances.
Ashton went over in the first half to put Northampton in charge and he doubled his tally after the break.
Tries from Richard Thorpe and Seilala Mapusua kept the hosts' top-four hopes alive as they reduced the gap to 20-23.
But Stephen Myler's fourth penalty left the Exiles seven points adrift of Saints with just one game left.
Saints took the lead midway through the opening half when Jon Clarke's clever pass set Ashton on his way to score with a 50-metre dash, which was then converted from the touchline by Myler.
Tom Homer reduced the arrears with two penalties before Myler kicked a brace himself to give Saints a seven-point half-time lead.
Northampton were given a scare after the break when Ben Foden's loose pass was almost intercepted by Topsy Ojo, who would have had a clear run to the line.
But the visitors soon extended their advantage as Myler was again successful with the boot to make it 16-6 before Ashton grabbed his second try of the afternoon.
Lee Dickson fed the ball to Soane Tonga'uiha before Calum Clark was hauled down narrowly short and with the ball recycled to Ashton, he was left the simple task of crossing the line befire Myler added the extras.
Irish then brought the game back to life with two tries in just three minutes.
Firstly replacement Richard Thorpe scored from a close-range scrum before a neat half-break from Dan Bowden sent Seilala Mapusua on his way to the line.
Both tries were converted by Homer as the margin was reduced to just three points.
But Myler then kicked his final penalty of the afternoon as Saints held on despite late pressure to keep their Premiership title hopes alive.
London Irish head coach Toby Booth told BBC Berkshire: "We're in the business of winning rugby games and there's obviously a lot of sentiment with your last home game especially with the significant people leaving but ultimately we've come up short in a game we had the opportunity to win and that's very disappointing.
"We are bitterly disappointed because within the game we had control of the situation and forced our way back into a contest which many would have capitulated on.
"The most encouraging thing about today was that we saw some some true London Irish rugby DNA and that is really important."
Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder told BBC Radio Northampton: "It's been a tough week for us. We had a tough game at Newcastle, then at Gloucester, then to re-focus against a side desperate to win and get in the top four.
"We're delighted. We did well in the first half, although it's a bit disappointing we let that lead slip. We got through it.
"The conditions will take a lot our of the players but what we have now is a bit of time. We've had our tough patch but now we will rest up."
London Irish: D. Armitage, Ojo, Seveali'i, Mapusua, Homer, Bowden, Hodgson, Dermody, Paice, Rautenbach, Kennedy, Casey, Gibson, S. Armitage, Stowers.
Replacements: Joseph for Seveali'i (61), Allinson for Hodgson (56), Lahiff for Dermody (71), Ion for Rautenbach (63), G. Johnson for Casey (63), Thorpe for Stowers (56).
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