Two years ago Northampton Wanderers were undone against Exeter Braves in the Premiership Rugby A League final, and tonight fly-half James Grayson is eyeing redemption with the same opponents in his crosshairs.
The Wandies faced off against the Braves in the 2016 final at Sandy Park, where Exeter ran out 55-25 winners, but this time the contest will be taking place on Northampton’s home turf.
The men in Black, Green and Gold are the defending A League champions after defeating Gloucester United at Franklin’s Gardens last year, and have been in dominant form this season – winning ten out of their 11 games.
They were too strong for Harlequins in their 46-27 semi-final victory last week and now the Wandies are looking to become the first team to retain their title since Leicester Tigers in 2011.
“I remember a couple of years ago; I was 17 and hadn’t signed professionally at the club yet, and I was a travelling reserve for that game,” said Grayson.
“I remember travelling down to a windy Sandy Park and we had three injuries in the first half, which wasn’t ideal, so fingers crossed this game will be a bit different.
“We’re on home turf, in front of a home crowd, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it.
“I’m pretty sure Exeter will play quite similarly to their first team and hold on to the ball for long periods of time and put pressure on us.
“I think we’ve got to go out there prepared to run, prepared to defend and when we get our chance, we’ll need to be clinical and take our opportunities when they come.
“We’ve got a young team, but a team full of talent and with boys eager to put their name forward.”
Grayson played at full-back in last year’s final, but the 19-year-old son of former Saints and England fly-half Paul Grayson has had more of a chance to shine in his favoured No.10 shirt this season.
It’s been a campaign of real progress for him, making ten first team appearances for Saints including against Wasps in the Aviva Premiership on Sunday.
England Under-20s international Grayson is in the enviable position of being able to pick the brains of some excellent fly-halves, both past and present, in his efforts to develop his game.
Grayson said: “I’ve always had my dad to go to as my first port of call in talking about fly-half play and Stephen Myler at the club has been brilliant as well.
“He’s able to answer my questions if I’m unsure about something or if I need a little bit of help with whatever it is, goal-kicking or stuff like that.
“It’s been really good to have him at the club and I’m sure wherever he goes next, they’ll be lucky to have him.”
Tickets for tonight’s match against Exeter Braves are available to purchase from the Franklin's Gardens ticket office for £5 (adults) and £2 (juniors), while entry for Saints Season Ticket Holders is FREE.
(©Matt Wright/Sportsbeat 2018)