Saints had wrapped-up the bonus point by the 32nd minute after revelling in some feeble defence that enabled former Australia centre Rob Horne to cross twice, but – having coasted out of reach – they took their foot off the pedal to make heavy weather of the second half.
The Exiles grew in confidence as they sensed their opponents’ vulnerability and the second-half try count finished 3-2 in their favour, although they were assisted by some weak tackling in a low-quality Premiership match.
Since accounting for Harlequins on the opening weekend, Irish have leaked 111 points over three matches and for all the spirit evident later in the game, a season-long battle against relegation awaits.
Northampton had amassed a commanding 14-0 lead inside the opening six minutes alone, Nic Groom finishing a well-executed attack launched by George North before Horne showed strength to crash over for a soft try.
Having regrouped manfully, however, the Exiles’ defence fell apart all too easily for a third time when a lack of punch in midfield enabled Horne to cross again.
Irish were no match for their more composed opponents (Getty)
Route one was the source of the next touchdown when a line-out drive ended with Mikey Haywood being shoved over, delivering the try-scoring bonus point.
Bell kicked a penalty on the stroke of half-time but – given the interval score was 26-6 – the decision to go for goal seemed a strange one with so much ground to make up.
It became Northampton’s turn to fall off routine tackles when wing Alex Lewington bounced and span his way to the whitewash, but any hint of a…