Newcastle got off to the best possible start, scoring a converted try with just three minutes on the clock. They came close to a second not long after, only for lock Scott MacLeod to ignore a massive overlap and eventually turn the ball over.
But Saints maintained their composure, scoring three tries in the first half through Tom Collins, Teimana Harrison and Mike Haywood. Collins’s second and a last-gasp finish from Howard Packman came after the break, and with Will Hooley adding 12 points from the tee the job was done.
Fourteen players of the match day 23-man squad were either still in, or had recently graduated from the club’s Senior Academy, and King says that the unity that comes from coming through the ranks was showcased by how the team reacted to those opening passages of play.
“A lot of these young guys have lived in the same houses and have grown up alongside each other over the past few years,” he told BBC Radio Northampton. “The best teams are the ones which grow up together.
“Anyone who’s played rugby knows that you need to trust the guys who are out there with you. You’re going to put your body on the line in uncomfortable situations, and you know he’s going to do the same for you.
“You go through tough moments when you have to bounce back, and in the first few minutes against Newcastle we were seven points down. Then it’s about how you react in adversity and I thought the guys responded really well.”
The club’s coaches made 14 changes to the starting line-up from that which began last week’s European Champions Cup win over the Ospreys, and King added that the squad had been eager to play.
“Today’s a reflection of the hard work that they do when the internationals are here,” he commented. “It’s great for the future of the club when you can put a performance in like that against a very competitive Newcastle team and come out on top.
“It was a good mix of youthful exuberance and a couple of wise older heads, and I thought Phil Dowson captained the team brilliantly as well.”
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