Ahead of their return to league action next week, the Saints Under-18s showed their intent for the rest of the season with a solid 19-5 win over Saracens.
After a poor start, the Saints quickly recovered, and never looked like relinquishing their lead.
The Saints started nervously, knocking the ball into touch from kick off, and a few phases later the Saracens midfield combined to put the inside centre in beside the sticks. Rain and wind can make even the simplest of kicks difficult, and so it proved as the Saracens fly half skewed his kick wide.
However, the Saints were back on the front foot immediately, and 10 minutes later they were ahead. The Saints were camped on the Saracens 22 and the pressure eventually told as No. 8 Jake Carter broke through two tired-looking tackles before crashing over the line. James Grayson, whose kicking was excellent all day, nailed his conversion, and the Saints took a slender lead.
For the next twenty minutes, both teams cancelled each other out absolutely in both attack and defence, with the action rarely leaving the middle third of the pitch. As ferocious attacks were met by yet more aggressive defence, the intensity led to the Saracens full back seeing yellow for a deliberate trip on Saints’ ever-threatening winger Faysal Olabooye.
This proved to be a turning point in the game as momentum shifted noticeably in the Saints’ favour, and, with the final act in the half, Olabooye made the pressure tell and dotted down in the corner. Grayson once again overcame the conditions to nail his conversion.
After the sin bin period was over, the intensity and equilibrium of the first half were resumed. It looked as though the game would need a solo piece of magic, and that is exactly what replacement winger George Grieves provided just moments after coming on. Great hands in the centres saw the Saints break from a scrum won against the head, before the ball found its way to Grieves. With three defenders to beat, he powered his way over the line to make the score 19-5 and take the game away from the visitors.
“This was absolutely one of those games where the performances was more important than the win," Captain Jasper Dix said.
“We’ve got Leicester next week so performing well against Sarries today was absolutely key for us. We want to set down a precedent for the rest of the season. I thought all of the boys performed well and that means we can look forward to next week.
“I thought we attacked really well in the first half. I thought we shipped the ball well. Obviously we had to come back from their early try, and then in the second half we did what we had to. We grafted really well, got ourselves over the ball, got some good turnovers and, ultimately, held them out.
This weekend, five of the starting 15 that played against Racing 92 were products of the Saints Academy, Something Dix says is an inspiration to the younger players at the club. “It’s amazing to see boys like Tom Stephenson and Teimana Harrison performing so well on the big stage, and I think everyone in the academy really looks up to them," he added.
“That’s where we all want to be in the next couple of years.”
2mins SARACENS Try 0-5
12mins SAINTS Try Carter Con Grayson 7-5
30mins SARACENS Yellow
35mins SAINTS Try Olabooye Con Grayson 14-5
HALF-TIME SAINTS 14 SARACENS 5
50mins SAINTS Try Grieve 19-5
FULL-TIME SAINTS 19 SARACENS 5
15 James GRAYSON
14 Faysal OLABOOYE
13 Fraser DINGWALL
12 Fraser STRACHAN
11 Jamel HAMILTON
10 Gregor HALDANE
9 Ben RICHARDSON
1 Devante ONOJAIFE
2 Rob MARMION
3 Rhys CHARALAMBOUS
4 Alan GREGORY
5 Matt WARING
6 Jasper DIX
7 Matt WATSON
8 Jake CARTER