With several of Northampton’s hottest prospects either on-loan or dual-registered this season with Saints’ partner club, Bedford Blues, we round up the best of the latest action...
As many as 13 Saints ran out in Bedford colours for the first time on Saturday, as the Blues claimed bragging rights over local rivals Ampthill after an 11-try thriller of a pre-season opener.
With the Championship season now just a few weeks away, Northampton’s contingent wasted no time getting settled into the Bedford shirt as the side made the short trip to Dillingham Park for the Bedfordshire derby.
Three tries either side of half-time were enough to see off a spirited second-half comeback from the hosts, with the young Saints fitting seamlessly into the Blues line-up to score four of Bedford’s six tries as Dani Long-Martinez, Tui Uru and Ethan Grayson (two) all got over the whitewash.
🔵 How good is that winning feeling? 🤩— Bedford Blues (@BedfordBluesRFC) February 21, 2021
💻 We defend our #BattleofBedfordshire bragging rights next Saturday; purchase your live stream ➡️ https://t.co/JP6uw4re4U
📰 Recap yesterday’s action ➡️ https://t.co/x040hWkNyV#BluesFamily #differentshadeofblue pic.twitter.com/sU2ZGghLpj
Bedford’s starting backline had a distinctive Black, Green and Gold feel as Connor Tupai, Tommy Mathews, Dani Long-Martinez and Reuben Bird-Tulluch occupied the 9-12 jerseys, with hooker Jack Hughes, lock Lewis Bean and No.8 Tui Uru also beginning the clash.
It was Long-Martinez who claimed the first spoils of the 2021 pre-season, with Mathews setting the rapid winger free to race in from the half-way line.
Ampthill hit back with a score from an impressive lineout drive, but Bedford responded with a mauling try of their own through Pat Tapley before a pair of yellow cards for the hosts opened up the space for Uru to crash over off the back of the scrum for Blues’ third. Mathews added a third successful conversion to see Bedford head into the break 14 points to the good, but a red card for Bedford’s Oli Curry on the stroke of half-time would pave the way for Ampthill to claw their way back into the match.
In a new-look line-up for the second half, Ryan Olowofela, Ethan Grayson, JJ Tonks and Ollie Newman all entered the fray, and it was lock Newman who made the first impact with a 30-metre charge setting up Oskar Hirskyj-Douglas to the score out wide.
Three minutes later, Grayson was over in the same corner after patient phase-play from Bedford got them close.
Ampthill’s extra man was soon evident, though, with the side out-muscling Bedford to score twice from close-range. And though Tom Litchfield and Ed Prowse came on for their debuts before Grayson got on the end of a fine, sweeping move for his second, two further quick-fire tries from Ampthill made it a three-point affair as the game entered the final minutes.
But Bedford clung onto the lead and the derby spoils, with Uru and Grayson claiming the joint man-of-the-match title after an online supporter vote.
What they said...
“It was good to get out there again with the boys,” said Long-Martinez after the full-time whistle.
“We’ve been training for a few weeks now, getting used to everything at Bedford and I’m just loving it. It’s been good to get the ball back in my hands; it’s been tough training without the aim of playing at the weekend, so get back on the field is great.
“Both Saints and Blues have been great in terms of settling us in, the boys at Bedford have been great introducing themselves to us.
“Obviously it’s been nice to have a big group of lads come across together, but Bedford have been great in supporting us. We’re really loving it.”