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Sharp impressed by Saints youngsters at Mobbs Memorial Match

Northampton Saints Academy Coach Jake Sharp could not hide his delight to play a part in the Mobbs Memorial Match again, as the British Army were defeated 59-7 at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens.

Sharp actually turned out for Bedford Blues the last time the match was part of the rugby calendar, when he came off the bench against the Army at Goldington Road in 2019.

This time, he was part of Northampton’s coaching staff as a fixture in honour of Saints great Edgar Mobbs – which was first played in 1921 – resumed following a two-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A strong Saints side scored nine tries as a mixture of youth and experience put on a show in what was the Army’s final match before they face the Royal Navy for the Babcock Trophy at Twickenham at the end of the month.

“It’s brilliant to have it back,” said Sharp. “Credit has to go to the Army lads, who worked really hard and put us under pressure at the start of the second half in particular.

“We had a lot of young lads coming on at the end, and that was a really good test for them.

“It was fantastic to see so many supporters come out as well – there were over 2,000 people inside the ground – so it was a really great occasion and hopefully this fixture continues for another 100 years.”

Jake Sharp, Academy Coach

“In the Gallagher Premiership, you play a lot against the same teams. So to come and have a game like this gives really good exposure to some of the young lads, to see players who actually have to go out and work, and then play.”

Youngsters such as Jake Garside, Tom Litchfield, Josh Gillespie and Emeka Atuanya caught the eye, while the night was also a successful one for winger Taqele Naiyaravoro.

The 30-year-old scored twice in playing the full 80 minutes after an injury-hit season, showing signs of being back to sharpness ahead of his final two months as a Saintsman.

Sharp said: “Last time [against Newcastle Falcons in the Premiership Rugby Cup] his lungs got a bit of a lesson – that first game back is always tough – but he looked to be getting back to where he was, which is exciting.

“The more we’ll get him on the training ground, the more we’ll hopefully get to see him play and that’s exciting for everyone.”

There was also an impressive showing from trialist Aaron Hinkley, who was another to get himself on the scoresheet against the Army.

Playing at openside flanker, the 23-year-old was given his first opportunity to show what he can do in a Saints shirt as he looks to give his career a fresh start, after injuries stunted his progress at former club Exeter Chiefs.

“He looked really lively,” Sharp said. “He’s always been a good talent, although he’s obviously had a bit of a tough time over the last year and a bit.

“He came to us slightly injured and he’s now had his first opportunity to play, so hopefully we can find him another couple of games and get him up to the speed and the level that we know he can get to.”

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