It has been unusual for the Under-18s to be gifted with good conditions to play in of late, so the youngsters made the most of the firm ground and still weather in Carrington, taking a 14-22 win. The team now sit 4 points clear at the top of the Premiership Rugby U18s Academy League table but will only be guaranteed a spot in the final if they take a win away from Gloucester in two weeks time.
“The side's performances have been good” Paul Diggin told SaintsTV. “Obviously we’re trying to build and get better and better with every game that goes by. It was a pretty good track out there, it was nice and firm and there wasn't much wind. We haven’t had those conditions in a long time so I was really impressed.
“I think we need to look at some of our accuracy and attack, we tried to overcomplicate things sometimes today. We just didn’t catch pass and went 80 metres down the field, you can't get away from that catch pass, it’s the best move that we’ve got.
“It would have been nice to get the bonus point but it happens sometimes that you get close to the try line several times but just don't quite make it. The guys kept on going, they kept knocking on the door but it makes it a little bit spicy against Gloucester, it was like a semi-final today really.
“The Gloucester game will be tough. We played them in summer in pre-season and they beat us, they were good. They have a very well organised team with some strong individuals so it’ll be tough, it always is when you go to Gloucester. Hopefully we can hit the ground running when we get there and take the momentum that we have from the past few games.”
The Saints Under-18s showed good attacking intent from the off. Conditions were firm underfoot, allowing the Saints to play prolonged spells of rugby that they had struggled to do in the wind and rain of previous games. A spell of play close to the Saints try line gave the side attacking confidence and when Sale responded with similar attacking intent, the Saints defence held up well.
A couple of disciplinary errors from the Saints led to Sale being awarded a penalty and the chance of picking up the first points of the game with 10 minutes on the clock, but Mitchell’s effort strayed just wide of the posts.
Instead, it would be the Saints who picked up the first points. Luc Jeannot crossed over the whitewash, with Grayson successfully converting Jeannot’s try. It seemed the youngsters had found their rhythm, with 3 tries coming in little over 10 minutes before half time. McKibbin impressively stepped around his opposing number, allowing him to break away from the pack and dart over the try line. Grayson’s composure was impressive, as he managed to slot the conversion from close to the touch line.
Adam Shaw picked up the third and final Saints try but with the conversion hitting the post, the Saints youngsters went into half time with a 0-19 lead.
The second half proved to be ultimately frustrating for the Saints. Sale picked up two tries in fairly quick succession thanks to Postlethwaithe and Blackwell. Although the Sale defence was repeatedly tested throughout the second half, as the Saints looked close to scoring the bonus point try several times, it wasn’t to be.
The Saints Under-18s travel to Gloucester on February 7th with the hope of guaranteeing their place in the Premiership Rugby U18s Academy League final.
17 mins SAINTS Try Jeannot 0-5
18 mins SAINTS Con Grayson 0-7
24 mins SAINTS Try McKibbin 0-12
25 mins SAINTS Con Grayson 0-14
29 mins SAINTS Try Shaw 0-19
HALF TIME SALE 0 SAINTS 19
37 mins SALE Try Postlethwaite 5-19
38 mins SALE Con Mitchell 7-19
46 mins SALE Try Blackwell 12-19
47 mins SALE Con Mitchell 14-19
69 mins SAINTS Pen Haldane 14-22
FULL TIME SALE 14 SAINTS 22
Saints U18s George Furbank, Adam Shaw, Jamel Hamilton, Freddie McKibbin, Tosin Segun, James Grayson, Rob Smith, Ryan Eveleigh, Rob Marmion, Luc Jeannot, Alex Moon, John Hawkins, Tim Cardall, Will Allman, George Cox
Replacements: Alex Rayment, Jake Byrne, Ehren Painter, Toby Trinder, Jake Carter, Ben richardson, Gregor Haldane, Charlton Kerr
Sale U18s Mark Dixon, Harry Blackwell, Frazer Summers, Connor Wilkinson, Charlie Venables, Ali Crossdale, Alex Mitchell, Jake Pope, Christian Taylor, Diogo Ferriera, Matt Postlethwaite, Max Davies, Sam Haley, Ben Curry, Joe McGrail
Replacements: Lewis Bradley, George Williams, Jordan Grass, Druw Fray, James Gilboy, Tom MacCuish, Conor Dever, Ali Wealthall.