Saints Academy coach Will Parkin said Northampton’s Under-18s showed great intent as the side got their season off to a flying start, securing a 36-22 win against Leicester Tigers in an opening round Derby Day.
Coming into the new campaign off the back of a successful pre-season period, Saints started the Academy League by ending a five-year streak without a win over their Midlands rivals – with tries from Archie McParland, Toby Cousins, Ted Reid, Harry Hall and Nick Tarr securing victory on opening day.
And Parkin was delighted with the side’s first hit out of the season, but insisted there is still a lot for his young team to learn and improve on as the 2021/22 term continues.
“I was really happy with the lads’ intent to move the ball and keep it alive,” said Parkin.
“We speak about playing to space a lot and it was pleasing to see that throughout the game.
“Tigers are a very good side, and the boys will have learned a lot about being under pressure in that game. Ultimately, for me, that’s the most important thing – that the boys develop and learn every chance they get to put the shirt on.”
It took just minutes for Northampton to send McParland over, a sweeping team move rounded off by the scrum-half after Ethan Thorne sent a lovely chip through; and a moment of individual brilliance would get Saints their second, with Cousins rounding four defenders to run in unchallenged from 70 metres out.
Carn Richards-Farr’s drive towards the line set Reid up perfectly for the pick and go and Saints’ third, before an outstanding line from Archie Kean released Hall across the whitewash.
And tighthead prop Tarr rounded off the scoring, claiming an overthrown lineout to run the score in from 40 metres out for the side’s fifth and final try of the afternoon.
But, as with their senior counterparts, the games come thick and fast for Saints, with the side now preparing to welcome Yorkshire Carnegie to Bedford Athletic on Thursday (23 December, kick-off: 2pm).
Parkin added: “It was a good first hit out but there are lots we will have to improve on going into Yorkshire on Thursday.
“Retaining the ball will be very important as we try to challenge the lads to move the ball to space more often, that’s the next step for us as a side: growing our skillset in that area.
“As always, our thanks must go to the parents, schools and clubs who make all this possible, as well as Bedford Athletic for giving us base for these opening rounds.
“But this is just the start of the campaign and I’m looking forward to seeing what the lads can bring to the table throughout the rest of the season.”