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Graham: Saints’ sights set on Bristol after narrow opening defeat

Sam Graham is adamant that, despite a ‘gutting’ opening-day Gallagher Premiership defeat, Northampton Saints showed enough fight against Sale Sharks to kick on into this weekend’s clash with Bristol.

The men in Black, Green and Gold travelled to Salford Community Stadium to face the Sharks, last season’s Premiership finalists, on Sunday and picked up a losing bonus point in a nip-and-tick 20-15 loss.

Tommy Freeman scored early on to give Saints the lead, but tries from Tom Roebuck, Tom O’Flaherty and Ethan Caine saw the home side go into the interval ten points to the good.

Northampton did not concede in the second half, and James Ramm scored with 12 minutes to go in the match, but the visitors could not quite find their way over the whitewash again to snatch a hard-earned victory as they were turned over with the clock in the red.

Graham, 26, lined up at No.8 for the contest – and while he could not hide his frustration at how the final moments of the game unfolded, the back row was impressed by the grit Saints showed throughout against one of the most physical sides in the league.

“The good thing was that we managed to put the way we wanted to play on the pitch for the majority of the game, which is what we have been working so hard on during preseason,” he said.

“The sad thing was that we didn’t quite marry that up with our discipline, and didn’t take a few opportunities at the end. But, for 90% of that game, we did what we needed to do. It’s just gutting that we didn’t come out of it with the win.

“We matched them physically and then some. We still managed to run them ragged, but we also brought that physical edge that we needed. Particularly in our defence, it was very pleasing.”

Sam Graham

“However we gave them some opportunities that they want – and that’s what we’ve got to marry up with the physicality, and then we will be in a very good spot.

“We knew we were coming here for a fight and that’s exactly what we got, and that’s what we wanted. That’s the sort of challenge we needed to kickstart our season.

“We’ve come out on the wrong side of the result but that will stand us in good stead going forward. We need to move on quickly and all roads lead to Bristol now.”

Phil Dowson’s side will be back on home soil next weekend, as Saints welcome Bristol Bears for their first game at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens of the new Premiership campaign.

Graham added: “Bristol have got different threats to Sale – but, we are going to head into that game with the same mentality; we are here for a fight, and we are not going to go away for eighty minutes.

“We can’t wait to get back to the Gardens and hopefully give our supporters a performance to shout about in Northampton.”

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