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U18s notch up first win of Academy League season

Northampton Saints' under-18s chalked up their first win of the Premiership Rugby Academy League campaign on Sunday with a 24-19 victory at Worcester Warriors.

Louis Martin's double either side of half-time, coupled with tries from Bradley Crane and Ollie Newman, secured a bonus-point triumph that saw Mark Hopley and Simon Sinclair's side get off the mark for the season in some style.

Saints exploded out the blocks from the kick off with a wonderful score from Martin, who rounded the last Warriors defender after Tommy Freeman's outstanding offload landed straight into the young winger's hands.

On the other wing Morgan Dayes came close to doubling the 5-0 lead almost instantly, as his break from midfield had Worcester chasing their tails again, only to be penalised in the ruck by referee Sara Cox.

Worcester were relentless on the counter as they pressured Saints into their 22 for numerous phases, but the men in Black, Green and Gold defended superbly and held off an intense attack.

The trio of Freeman, Martin and centre Josh Gillespie then stunned Sixways with a sublime burst of pace down the field, and while a last-ditch leap onto the ball by Warriors prevented a second score, the frightening speed of the young Saints was a sign of things to come.

Ethan Grayson looked to land a penalty soon after with Worcester’s discipline at the breakdown letting them down, but the ball drifted just wide of the posts.

But Crane finally ensured Northampton would increase their advantage as his exhilarating pace tore through the hosts defences again, leaving him a 30-metre dash for the line; Grayson nailed the conversion from in front of the posts.

A skewed line-out by Warriors gifted Saints an even bigger lead on the approach to half-time, with flanker Newman showing off his pace and Grayson adding the extras to take the scoreline to 19-0.

However Worcester’s Higgins and Monks combined to bring the deficit back to just 12 points with a fine score of their own, as an offload sent their flanker through to keep the hosts' interests alive ahead of the second half.

Warriors kick-started the second half in similar fashion to Saints in the first, with Matthews finishing a high-paced move down the left flank.

But Martin and Grayson combined to swing the momentum back to Saints, with a wonderful kick to the corner from the No.10 landing straight in Martin's hands for him to slide over the line, earning his side the bonus point after 50 minutes.

Worcester were struggling to make many inroads into Saints' 22 until Monks broke free to make it a five-point game with a quarter of an hour left on the clock.

But while the hosts pressed forwards, a phenomenal turnover late in the game for Saints secured the triumph and ensured Northampton would move up the standings in the Northern Conference standings.

SAINTS: Freeman; Dayes, Gillespie, Hyde, Martin; E Grayson, Crane; Hughes, Donald, Prowse, Charter, King, McDowell, Newman, Iyogun (capt)
Replacements: Mheta, Frostick, Ward, Chalk, Sharpe, Williams, Litchfield, Lewis

WARRIORS: Mann; Maddox, Hulbert, Wells, Matthews; Smith, Mitcham; Richardson, Lilley, Ballinger, French, Lawes, Forsythe, Higgins, Monks
Replacements: Turner, Royston, Constantine, Black, Lewis, Wynn, Olley, Spencer

TIMELINE

SAINTS Try Martin 0-5
SAINTS Try Crane, Conversion E Grayson 0-12
SAINTS Try Newman, Conversion E Grayson 0-19
WARRIORS Try Higgins, Conversion Smith 7-19
HALF-TIME Warriors 7-19 Saints
WARRIORS Try Matthews 12-19
SAINTS Try Martin 12-24
WARRIORS Try Monks Conversion Smith 19-24
FULL-TIME Warriors 19-24 Saints