The Saints' driving maul and defence decided the game at Daventry RFC © Adedapo Segun
Academy News SAINTS U18 5 GLOUCS U18 0 Under-18s crowned Northern Conference champions
In a tight and tense affair, a hugely committed performance saw the Saints Under-18s advance to the Premiership Rugby Academies League finals day as the Northern Conference top seeds, the youngsters scoring the only try of a title showdown with Gloucester.
A niggly affair at Daventry RFC yielded few chances, but having taken theirs in the first half, the Saints then produced a stunning late defensive display to keep their previously unbeaten visitors at bay.
Predictably, adverse weather made conditions difficult from the get go and, perhaps allied with the tension of a title decider, both sides struggled to look after the ball.
It was also a challenging night for the kickers and after Harry Mallinder’s first effort went astray, Gloucester would fashion their opening chance at points.
A chip forward was reeled in by Elliott Creed, but the winger was to be denied by an excellent covering tackle by Howard Packman just inches short of the line and the game would remain scoreless.
The deadlock was eventually broken on 24 and unsurprisingly it was a driving maul that did the damage, a weapon the Saints Under-18s have used to great effect all season. Also unsurprising was the man to get the ball down, second row Jordan Onojaife bagging his fifth score of the campaign and one that would ultimately decide the contest.
There were to be a few close shaves, however, and a brilliant end to the game.
Before the break, Gloucester thought they had hit back only for their score from a lineout move to be deemed not straight.
Again the second half was evenly matched, but with the visitors just shading possession a penalty chance for Lloyd Evans would strike a post with just 15 minutes left on the clock.
Still there was work to be done and a titanic battle would save its biggest drama for a heart stopping finish.
Having been denied all evening by some outstanding home defence, Gloucester slipped through and appeared to have levelled scores, only for Saints defenders to hold the move up, the crucial intervention rewarded with the final whistle.
As Northern Conference champions, the Saints Under-18s head to Allianz Park next Monday for finals day to take Exeter, Southern winners with a 100 percent record to their name.
2mins SAINTS Miss pen Mallinder
24mins SAINTS Try Onojaife 5-0
HALF-TIME SAINTS 5 GLOS 0
55mins GLOS Miss pen Evans
FULL-TIME SAINTS 5 GLOS 0
Packman; Beckett, Hutchinson, Mallinder (capt), Rawcliffe; Sheppard, Lee-Everton; Fish, Griffiths, Jeannot, Onojaife, Peters, Cox, Allma, Ludlam
Reps: Golding, Marshall, Wilkins, Lyons, Morris, Furbank, Defeo
Hayward; Creed, Norman, Thorley, Westcote; Evans, Gwilliam; Goodrick-Clarke, Jones, Spencer, Bartle, Lushington, Wilson, Underhill, Safe
Reps: Bevan, Mullis, Chalkin, Jerrum, Ronald, Bassett, Priestner, Dee