Sale Sharks Academy 15 Northampton Saints Academy 17

First published in Trafford Sport

IN Saturday’s friendly at Heywood Road, the young Sharks were two minutes away from victory.

Saints' replacement kicker Dan Lewis slotted home a penalty to win this Academy game, a warm up match before the young sides commence their league action later in the month.

Like their seniors the night before, the Saints exerted early forward pressure which set them up for the opening try after three minutes when flanker Ozokwe got the final touch. Shepherd converted.

The Sale Academy replied in style, forcing a series of scrums in the Northampton 22, but the phase ended with a penalty to the visitors.

The young Sharks stepped up the mobility of the game, inspired by half backs Mitchell and Deakin, but the handling didn't necessarily match the ambition of the passing.

Mitchell missed a 24th minute penalty attempt but James made no mistake just two minutes later to open the home account after Saints strayed offside.

Saints produced a rolling maul to make 25 metres of progress out of defence before sending the ball along the back line. To Sale's relief, the dangerous Packman was forced into touch.

The first half ended with home loosehead prop Parker producing a crunching tackle on Jones and the scoreboard showing 3-7.

The splendidly named George Wakecokecoke produced an early threat to an unchanged Sharks team after the break, but Mitchell cleared the danger. In reply, Sharks scored their first try of the game. A good lineout drive set up Neild, who was almost over, but the ball was recycled out right and spun to skipper James, who coolly converted his own effort to put his team three points clear.

Both sides went down to fourteen men after Wacokecoke and Neild were shown yellow cards two minutes apart.

Saints regained the lead with fifteen minutes left, when Elvers fielded a diagonal kick to the left corner, setting up number 8 Allcock for a try. Lewis converted to put Saints 14-10 up.

Sharks immediately replied, with a sweeping attack including prop Parker dummying a pass to himself - always guaranteed to raise a cheer. James finally sent winger Beal over for a one-point lead, but couldn't convert the try.

With two minutes left, Sharks Academy were penalised for handling in the ruck, giving Lewis his moment of glory.

Sharks Academy coach Brendan Thomas said, "We were really pleased with the lads. We drew lots of positives out of the game. Commitment was fantastic, but they must apply a little bit more nous in their game management. Performances like this will see us do OK in the upcoming League."

Sharks open up their Premiership Academy League programme with a home match against Newcastle Falcons at Heywood Road on December 21, kick off 2pm.

Sharks Academy: Jeffers; Broster, Bedlow, James (capt.), Beal; Deakin, Mitchell; Parker, Neild, McGrath, Fairclough, Harris, Tyrrell, Parfitt, Hughes Replacements: Lawton, Beaty, Barker, Kenny, Baterbury, Lowthian, Jones, Wise, Hardman, Geiger, Ravenscroft

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