This was a potential banana skin for the Saints. Playing in a game which doesn’t count for anything against a Universities side full of confidence and full of players wanting to make name for themselves could have led to a poor attitude, writes Graham Henthorne.

In all the games this season so far the Saints have started poorly and been playing catch-up.

Not so today as the attitude to put the students in their place was right from the off and they just blew the visitors away in the first 15 minutes with a five try blitz.

But as ever the attacking side is set up by the defensive side and from the kick-off the Saints contained the visitors with some tigerish tackling restricting their yardage and so starting with good field position.

Led by Greg Richards, the Saints marched downfield with Danny Richardson putting up a peach of a bomb which was spilled by the Universities full back. Jake Spedding picked up the loose ball, fed Liam Cooper then watched him go in unopposed for the first of his brace. Danny Richardson converted the first of his 11 goals in a display of imperious kicking.

Inexplicably the Universities kicked early on their next set giving Ricky Bailey easy ball. The full back ran at the line then fed Matty Fleming who made use of Spedding outside to throw a dummy and shoot through the gap. He pinned back his ears outpacing the cover over 60 metres, then showed marvellous ball control as, when caught, he still managed to touched down despite being on his back.

Next to start his double was Bailey whose pace at the back troubled the visitors all day. He broke down the right before cutting back to the sticks standing up his opposite number beautifully.

Cooper got his second after a great transition from defence into attack by Bailey, Jack Owen and Calvin Wellington. The ball was spread right from the play the ball only for Richardson to put Cooper way with a great short pass.

The match was well and truly put to bed when Richardson got in on the act jinking his way left and right to score.

However, instead of continuing to be ruthless the Saints started to drop the ball, completing only two of their last eight sets and gifting two tries to the visitors.

The Saints had the final say when Jack Owens miss pass found Dave Eccleston who tip-toed down the line to score in the left corner.

The poor last 20 minutes continued at the start of the second as the Universities scored their third try again a soft one at dummy half.

But the Saints gradually regained their composure and put the visitors to the sword.

Jack Owens scored coming back on the angle and beating the cover to the posts.

We were then treated to a piece of individual brilliance from Bailey. The full back took the restart kick, skirting the line until he found his hole and he was through and gone before most people had even noticed. 95 metres later he was touching down under the sticks having outpaced the cover.

Jordan Gibbons’ reach into the right corner completed a three try, ten minute burst before the Saints conceded yet another soft dummy half try.

Normal service was, thankfully resumed with Spedding backing up superbly to take Owens’ pass after a great break.

Gibbons got his brace taking Richardson’s miss pass and the final try was scored when Owens’, hemmed in on all sides, mesmerised the Universities with his dancing feet eventually shooting through a gap, passing inside to the supporting Spedding who fed Fleming to go over unopposed.

There were good performances across the park but a special mention should go to Christian Kellett making his debut at this level who went off after two minutes with concussion but came back to do a further 30 good minutes with and without the ball.

But the half back pairing of Owens and the imperious Richardson coupled with the pace of Bailey out the back was too much for the visitors every time.

Match Summary:


Tries: Liam Cooper (2 & 12), Matty Fleming (5 & 75), Ricky Bailey (8 & 50), Danny Richardson (15), Dave Eccleston (34), Jack Owens (48), Jordan Gibbons (58 & 70), Jake Spedding (66).

Goals: Danny Richardson (11 from 12).

England Universities:

Tries: Dom Bryan (26), Matt Ross (30), Kieran Smith (41), Lewis Lord (63).

Goals: Sam Druce (3 from 4).

Half Time: 36-10

Full Time: 70-22



1. Ricky Bailey; 2. Matty Fleming, 3. Jake Spedding, 4. Calvin Wellington, 5. Dave Eccleston; 19. Jack Owens, 6. Danny Richardson; 8. Greg Richards, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Brad Clavering, 11. Liam Cooper, 12. Will Jubb, 13. Jonah Cunningham.

Subs: 16. Christian Kellett, 17. George Milton, 18. Ben Sims, 22. Jake Butler-Fleming, 25. Jordan Gibbons.

England Uni:

33. Jacob Morgan; 5. Elliot Hall, 3. Zack McComb, 4. Dan Harrison, 29. Nathan Hill; 1. Kieran Smith, 31. Sam Druce; 36. Aaron Hall, 30. Jake Reed, 22. Josh Halstead, 13. Jack Lazenby, 12. Marcus Stock, 11. Matt Ross.

Subs:  8. Liam Wood, 15. James Mason,  16. Kieran Sherratt, 20. Josh Hamilton, 23. Lewis Lord, 25. Dom Bryan, 28. Sam Swire, 34. Lewis Taylor, 35. Mike Quickenden.

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