O'Connor impresses on debut
James O'Connor (Getty Images)
London - Australian back James O'Connor has tasted defeat on his London Irish debut after a 19-14 loss to high-flying Northampton in the English Premiership on Sunday.
The versatile 23-year-old Queenslander signed a one-season contract with Irish earlier this week and he produced an impressive display from full-back at the Madejski Stadium.
Bidding to force his way back into the Australia team after a series of off-pitch misdemeanours, O'Connor caught the eye with his purposeful running and claimed the assist for the Exiles' only try.
It was Northampton who emerged victorious, however, with full-back James Wilson crossing in the first half and number 10 Stephen Myler kicking 14 points as they registered their fifth win in seven league matches.
Wing Sailosi Tagicakibau replied with the Irish try, while fly-half Ian Humphreys added his side's extras with the boot.
The victory kept Northampton within two points of leaders Saracens, who demolished Newcastle 40-3, while Irish remain second from bottom.
Connor admitted he had been taken aback by the pace of the game in the English top flight.
"The speed of the game was very surprising," said the Australian, who has scored 223 points in 44 appearances for his country.
"I thought Super Rugby was fast, but I was really blowing out there, that's for sure.
"It felt great. The club and all the boys have been awesome since I arrived and I am really looking forward to my time here.
"I didn't feel 100 percent and can get better. I wanted to perform. It was one of the best pitches I have played on. It was just a shame we could not get the win."
Irish director of rugby Brian Smith said O'Connor's performance was "outstanding".
"He's 23 and is still just a kid who gets up in the morning and puts his trousers on one leg at a time like everyone else," Smith added.
"A lot has happened quickly to him, but he's settled in straight away and showed his class today. The boys enjoyed playing with him today.
"We see him as a 15, even though many see him as a jack of all trades who has played right along the back line. And he wants to establish himself as a full-back."