Jim Mallinder hailed Will Hooley after the fledgling fly-half starred in Saints’ 35-10 victory at Newcastle Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
Hooley grabbed the first try of the game, gliding through three Falcons defenders, and proceeded to add a further 13 points with the boot.
It was an impressive showing from the 20-year-old, who came in for his first Aviva Premiership start of the season due to Stephen Myler’s calf injury.
Mallinder says Myler may be fit enough to return for next Saturday’s game against Bath, but is pleased Hooley is showing he is more than capable of filling the boots of the England man.
“Will had a very good game,” said the Saints director of rugby. “He was very assured and I think he’s improving all the time.
“He’s had a good pre-season with us with Stephen Myler not being fit. It’s allowed Will to get in there and play and that’s how these players get better, with experience of doing it.
“I was really pleased with him. He’d had a good game, a good 70 minutes. Stephen might be fit next week but if not, Will will be a good replacement.”
Hooley’s haul and tries from Alex Waller, Ken Pisi and George North helped give Saints the bonus-point victory they had desired from their trip to Kingston Park.
It provided the perfect tonic after a 20-16 defeat at Wasps a week earlier and Mallinder was delighted with the reaction of his side.
“We saw the response in that first 30 minutes,” he said. “Everybody was disappointed after last week.
“We said afterwards that we didn’t play badly but you’ve got to control the game for 80 minutes, which we didn’t do.
“It was good to come out here today and dominate it from the start. Once we got that lead, I didn’t think we were ever going to lose it so I’m very pleased.”