Director of Rugby Chris Boyd saluted Manny Iyogun’s ‘remarkable effort’ despite Northampton Saints going down to a European Champions Cup quarter-final defeat to Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.
The men in Black, Green and Gold were without four senior looseheads for the West Country clash after a string of injuries.
But 19-year-old prop Iyogun lasted 72 minutes and scrummaged well throughout the contest – winning a couple of penalties – while Saints dominated possession and territory for long periods of play.
Exeter ultimately progressed to the semi-finals of the competition, bagging five tries to Saints’ two, but Iyogun walked off to a huge ovation from his teammates.
“He’s a great kid,” said Boyd. “What he did is survive out there for 70 minutes and it was a remarkable effort because last week was his first men’s scrum.
“It was a fantastic opportunity for him, and he handled himself really well.”
Teimana Harrison and Fraser Dingwall scored for Saints, but Boyd’s men weren’t able to convert their territorial dominance into more tries.
That cost Northampton a spot in the last four of the competition as Exeter qualified for a semi-final against Toulouse.
Boyd said: “We can’t fault the effort. We tried really hard, but we had to work too hard to get our points, and they didn't work as hard to get theirs.
“That was the tale for me. Everybody took responsibility for us, and it’s clear that Exeter are further along on their journey as a team than we are.
“We knew it would be difficult, we had to have an impact on the game, and we did. We just made too many errors and gave them points too easily.”
Saints had beaten Lyon and Benetton twice as they made it to the quarter-finals, and reflecting on his team’s showing in the Champions Cup, Boyd added: “We had a couple of good games against Lyon to get us into this situation.
“It’s all part of the experience for a young and developing group. We’ll put it in the bank and hopefully we can be better in the future.”