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Hopley: Plenty of lessons in defeat for Saints U18s

Northampton Saints’ academy manager Mark Hopley highlighted the value of lessons learned for his U18s squad in a 19-36 defeat at home to Worcester Warriors in challenging conditions.

Saints made headway despite playing against a strong wind that made its mark on Saturday’s clash, seeing a young U18s side draw level with their guests 12-12 at the break.

An impressive first 40 playing into a strong wind was followed by a second-half that saw fatigue and inexperience ultimately settle in, as the Warriors ran in 24 points to Northampton’s seven.

“If you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn anything. So hopefully we learn and implement some of that against Wasps next week.”

Mark Hopley, Academy Manager

However, Hopley was keen to take the positives out of the defeat for the development of a young U18s outfit.

“The first half was really, really encouraging,” Hopley said. “We played into a strong breeze and I thought we managed the half really well. Very, very high levels of energy, worked really hard for each other and had to play a lot of rugby.

“We had to keep the ball in hand, we couldn’t kick the ball away; which was very difficult too. So I thought we managed that really well and to go in at half-time at 12-12, I thought that we’d done brilliantly well.”

Hopley continued: “The second half was difficult. We didn’t use the breeze and obviously didn’t learn the lessons from the first half. We didn’t understand that, actually, we could put a lot of pressure back onto Worcester with that.

“We made a lot of errors in our own third and actually gifted them a lot of points, which was disappointing. However, within this process, we had a lot of young boys playing. Boys that are eligible to play again next year and this is part of their development as well.

“You learn by playing and hopefully they’ll learn a lot from this experience today. And from an Academy League perspective, we’ve still got another two games to play. So hopefully we learn and implement some of that against Wasps next week.”

Heading into the penultimate U18s fixture at Franklin’s Gardens against local rivals Wasps next Saturday, Hopley highlighted the key areas he hopes his charges will go on to rectify.

“First of all, hopefully, we’re not playing with a gale next week” he continued. “But how we go about managing that and the intent to play and [knowing] when not to play. I want to develop skilful rugby players, so you’ve got to play. I want us to play with intent, and at times it’s about the balance between overplaying and underplaying, and when to play and not to play. As I say, you’ve got to play games for that.

“Overall I’m really happy with the first-half performance today, but massively disappointed with the way we performed in the second half.

“As I say, that’s not the end of the world. If you don’t make mistakes you don’t learn anything, and we’ve got a lot of learning to do from that second half.”

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