Northampton Saints got back to winning ways in the Premiership Under-18s Academy League on Saturday, as they ran out 32-45 winners against Wasps.
A pair of braces from Toby Cousins and Frankie Sleightholme sealed Saints’ third win of the season, with further tries from James Bennett, Josh Weru and Ted Reid propelling Northampton up to second in the Northern Conference with one round of the regular season remaining.
Cousins and Sleightholme opened the scoring for Saints at Aylesbury RFC with moments of individual skill; and while Wasps opened their account with a converted try just after Sleightholme’s score, Saints stuck to their defence and were eventually rewarded when a charge down from Bennett earned Northampton a third.
Fly-half Tommy Taylor added all three conversions to Saints’ tally before the break, but Wasps struck first after the restart – taking the score to 21-12 in Saints’ favour before the home side added a penalty to close the gap to six points.
Strong carries from captain George Patten and hooker Aston Gradwick-Light saw Sleightholme claim his second, before Weru's impressive performance off the bench as he returned from injury saw him score Saints’ fifth try.
And while Wasps added two more scores of their own, back row Ted Reid and centre Cousins both crossed the whitewash for Saints before the final whistle blew, while Taylor and replacement fly-half Harry Hall added a conversion apiece from the tee to seal the win.
Academy coach Will Parkin was delighted to see his side’s hard work pay dividends on the field.
“We felt much happier with our performance after the Worcester match and the lads continued to build on where they left off with that,” said Parkin.
“Our ability to retain the ball and allow us to put our attack on the pitch was very pleasing and in the same way defensively, we’ve worked hard over the last few weeks on our width and ability to get the ball back and I thought the boys did that well against Wasps.
“The fight to win the collisions, keep the ball alive and play quick rugby was there and although we didn’t offload the ball as much as we had wanted, our intent to move the ball into space was pleasing to see.
“And credit must go to Wasps, their set piece and fight to stay in the match made it a really competitive game. We’ve got a couple of bye weekends now but we will be making sure that we work hard for a strong performance in that last league game against Newcastle Falcons.
“It’s a great opportunity for the boys to play on the main pitch at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens and will hopefully put us into a good position going into Finals Day.”