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Parkin delighted with Academy progress after Derby Day victories

Northampton Saints Academy Coach, Will Parkin, was thrilled to see a summer of hard work in training pay dividends on Friday, as the Club’s Under-18s and Under-17s sides notched up big wins over local rivals Leicester Tigers.

The Under-18s began their Premiership Rugby U18 Academy League campaign with a bang, running in 11 tries in all to beat Tigers 75-7.

The boys in Black, Green and Gold have reached the competition’s final two years running, and will be confident of going one step further after a lightning start to their schedule – with wing Rafe Witheat grabbing a hat-trick and scrum-half Johnathan Weimann a brace.

The hosts went into half-time 54-0 ahead, as Weimann opened the scoring before Callum Lodder, Sonny Tonga’uiha and Edoardo Todaro also crossed before the 20-minute mark. Alfie Hoyles, Ben Agbenu, and Kieran Perkins all got in on the act before the interval, with Witheat adding his first of the afternoon just before the sides turned around.

The young winger scored twice more either side of Weimann’s second as Saints extended their advantage after the break, marking a brilliant turnaround from last season’s 27-24 reverse to Leicester (which was Northampton’s only defeat in the competition prior to the final).

And while Parkin – whose final game as the Club’s Under-18s coach comes this Friday (1 September) against Yorkshire before he moves into a new role within England’s pathway set-up – was delighted with the win, he insisted there was still room for improvement from the young Saints side.

“Overall, obviously the score is great, but for us that isn’t the most important thing,” he said. “We speak all the time around players just trying to get better and better and better. This was another opportunity for the boys to do that.

“For me, it was really pleasing to see what we’ve been looking at over the summer around playing fast, moving the ball, playing into space, and attacking clinically.”

Will Parkin, Academy Coach

“Defensively, we’ve put a big emphasis around our low tackle with the new tackle laws, and staying disciplined. We stayed really disciplined, which led to them kicking us the ball back or us getting the ball back, and that’s ultimately why we defend.

“Our emphasis is always just around getting better and better. So, for us, can we play even faster, can we take space better.

“We’ve had a big focus around moving the ball. There was a couple of opportunities that we did miss and that’s something for us that is important.

“We want to make these players exceptional decision-makers, and we spend a lot of time on that. Overall, we just need to keep levelling up and keep getting better in the areas that we were good at against Leicester.”

The Club’s Under-17s group were also in action on Friday against their Leicester counterparts, and they picked up where the Under-18s left off with a 45-12 triumph in another entertaining clash.

Northampton led 24-0 at half-time, with wing Preston MacFarlane scoring a first-half hat-trick. Jack Lawrence also crossed before the interval, before MacFarlane notched a fourth and both Fergus Cherrington and Ned Caton rounded off a near-perfect day for Saints Academy.

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