The quality on show and willingness from both teams to mix their play with aplomb completely justified the decision to take one of rugby's most historic fixtures into a new era.
However the first half was the very definition of a bruising encounter with both the Saints and Army sustaining injuries which forced changes in personnel.
There would be plenty of running rugby on show to entertain the 3,500 who had turned out on this balmy evening. However the first score belonged to the forwards, who drove Alex Waller over from a five-metre lineout just two minutes into the game.
The Army, for whom the match was their first warm-up ahead of the annual Twickenham clash against the Navy, had been in training camp before journeying to Franklin's Gardens. And they soon clicked into gear, with the Fijian trio of Ifereimi Bolodua, Maku Koroiyadi and Semesa Rokoduguni proving to be their strike weapons.
Bolodua, a gunner in the Royal Artillery, was certainly living up to his pre-match billing as being the Army's find of 2011, but he was just the standout performer as the visitors pinned the Saints back in their own 22.
Eventually the pressure told as the men in red forced the Saints to make a mistake at a lineout on their own five-metre line. Scrum-half Tom Chennell pounced to score in the corner, and while Ceri Cummings's conversion attempt dropped short it was no less than the Army deserved.
They came within the width of the touchline of extending the lead a couple of minutes later. Great hands put Rokoduguni away down the left, and the winger showed superb pace in heading for the corner. It took a brave Charlie Sadler effort to force the Fijian into touch at the corner, for which the full back took a knock that forced his withdrawal from the action.
Despite spending plenty of time on the back foot the Saints ended the half strongly. Glyn Hughes made a great run around Matt Dwyer to put his team on the front foot, and only a Gav Ferguson tap tackle on Greig Tonks stopped the centre scoring.
Saints also belied the 10-minute departure of Darrell Dyer to earn a couple of shots at goal. But as with his early conversion attempt Tonks's shots at goal were all wayward and the half ended with the Army still leading by three points.
The deficit didn't last long as the Saints struck with two tries inside the first five minutes of the resumption of play. Like the first try, the pack was at the heart of the effort with a powerful maul. But it was a great running line from Josh Skelcey that took the winger over the line, and with Tom Collins finishing off a great move a couple of minutes later the hosts were back in the lead again.
So Saints had made the most of Dave Bates's sin binning by scoring 12 unanswered points. And while Cummings made the most of the Army's first visit to the home 22 by landing a penalty Hooley replied in kind to punish the visitors' second yellow card just past the hour.
This took the score to 20-11, but all this did was provoke the Army - who by now had brought several more islanders into the action - to start flinging the ball about Sevens-style, which paid off with two excellent tries.
Dave Duffus was first over the whitewash, followed three minutes later by Rokoduguni, and both rewarded enterprising and accurate play from both forwards and backs.
But the Army's ill discipline proved their undoing as a series of penalties allowed the Saints to set up camp on the visitors' line. Chris Biller was the beneficiary, burrowing over in the right corner, and while a 25-all draw may have been the result to suit all sides Hooley's calm conversion ensured that the home youngsters secured the win.
2mins SAINTS Try A Waller 5-0
8mins ARMY Pen Cummings 5-3
19mins ARMY Miss pen Cummings
22mins ARMY Try Chennell 5-8
31mins SAINTS Yellow card Dyer
38mins SAINTS Miss pen Tonks
40+1mins ARMY Yellow card Bates
40+2mins SAINTS Miss pen Tonks
HALF-TIME SAINTS 5 ARMY 8
43mins SAINTS Try Skelcey Con Hooley 12-8
45mins SAINTS Try Collins 17-8
54mins ARMY Pen Cummings 17-11
61mins ARMY Yellow card Dowding
62mins SAINTS Pen Hooley 20-11
69mins ARMY Try Duffus Con Wessels 20-18
72mins ARMY Try Rokoduguni Con Wessels 20-25
78mins SAINTS Try Biller Con Hooley 27-25
FULL-TIME SAINTS 27 ARMY 25