Rory Hutchinson was one of four teenagers making their full-time debut © Getty Images
Academy News Hopley hails maturity of youngsters in reaching Premiership Sevens finals
Academy coach Mark Hopley says that the maturity and ability of the club's youngsters to learn from their mistakes was key in helping the Saints reach the Premiership Rugby Sevens Series finals.
The evening started in dispiriting style against Harlequins with the Saints going down 7-40 to the evening's class act, who would finish with three wins from three. The second game was just as tough, with the lead changing hand against Wasps four times before Lewis Ludlam's last-minute try secured a 26-21 win.
Then the Gardens really came to life for the final clash against Saracens. It was a tight and sparky affair which saw a yellow card shown to each team and some second half handbags.
But while nothing could be separated at half-time, with two converted tries apiece, the second half belonged to the Saints, who ran in 19 unanswered points to win 33-14 and book their place at the Twickenham Stoop in the process.
Over 11,000 supporters were at Franklin's Gardens, and Hopley said that they saw performances full of character from the Saints youngsters, four of whom - James Fish, Harry Mallinder, Lewis Ludlam and Rory Hutchinson - were making their first appearances as full-time professionals.
"We made too many mistakes against Harlequins, forcing the ball a bit too much and not reacting to those mistakes," he said. "The boys showed great maturity tonight, taking on board those comments and they got better and better with each performance.
"The Wasps game could have gone either way and we showed a lot of character to nick it at the end. And we saved our best until last against Saracens. It doesn't matter what level you're playing at, Northampton against Saracens is always a very competitive fixture and ultimately we did ourselves proud."
Next Friday's finals day will see the winners and runners-up from all four pools battle it out for the overall title. The Saints join Harlequins, Gloucester, London Irish, Cardiff Blues and Newport-Gwent Dragons in the finals line-up, with the last two places to be decided in Darlington today (Saturday, August 2nd).
And Hopley knows that it will be a step up from the group stages.
"It's going to be tough," he added. "The lads are still in pre-season and it's immensely hard at this time of year. But I'll be looking for us to learn from our mistakes and for us to keep getting better.
"As a coach I'm all about wanting to help make players get better and as long as they improve and learn from their mistakes hopefully the results will look after themselves. As long as we perform that's all I care about."