Northampton Saints 51 Bristol Bears 24: Tom Vickers' review and player ratings

George Furbank celebrated a score for Saints at Franklin's Gardens (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
George Furbank celebrated a score for Saints at Franklin's Gardens (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

On the weekend the clocks went back, Saints supporters were given a glimpse into life going forward at Franklin's Gardens.

As expected, several youngsters stepped up in a convincing success against Bristol Bears on a chilly afternoon in Northampton.

It was expected because anyone who has seen these players strutting their stuff for the Wanderers will know of their calibre.

And so many took the next step in their development as the club's Academy once again showcased its increasing strength.

In fact, there were so many impressive performances that most of attack coach Sam Vesty's post-match interview was spent giving shout-outs to those who starred.

From half-backs Alex Mitchell and James Grayson to flanker Lewis Ludlam, there was plenty to be positive about.

The Saints fans were treated to a glimpse of their club's future

The Saints fans were treated to a glimpse of their club's future

And what must also be noted is the way the elder statesmen - though they will hate that title - led the way, with Luther Burrell delivering easily his best performance of the season and Tom Wood skippering superbly.

Those players were the perfect example to the young players, who would dearly love to achieve what those Premiership winners have at Saints.

The signs are good because of the control and composure the home side showed for so long.

The Bears barely had a sniff in the first half, with their single score representing the only time they really threatened.

James Grayson produced a man of the match display

James Grayson produced a man of the match display

Saints scored four times before the break, with Mitchell and Grayson pulling the strings to great effect.

Every time the black, green and gold ventured into Bristol territory, they came away with points.

And that was thanks to their half-backs making the right decisions, allowing the forwards to do what they do best.

It would be easy to get carried away with this display were it viewed in isolation.

Lewis Ludlam delivered a big display

Lewis Ludlam delivered a big display

But the fact is, Grayson and Mitchell, as well as players such as Ludlam and Ollie Sleightholme, have done plenty before now to back up the belief that they are going to have big futures in the game.

Grayson looked very good during pre-season and there can be no doubt that he is developing at the required rate.

Mitchell starred for the first-team towards the end of last season and rarely disappoints when given the chance.

Ludlam is getting bigger and stronger with every game, and Sleightholme showed in pre-season that he has a natural finishing ability.

Trying to tackle the young winger looks akin to attempting to stop of dodgem and his elusive running game is extremely enjoyable to watch.

Fraser Dingwall, Alex Moon and many others are also worth mentioning.

And Saints will look for them all to continue their progression in the next two weeks with Premiership places up for grabs next month.

Boss Chris Boyd is not afraid of throwing bright prospects into big matches and the belief that there is now a real pathway into the first team is clearly buoying the Academy products.

The Wanderers have done so well in recent years and those labours are now bearing fruit.

Supporters love seeing home-grown talent getting a go in the side and the good thing is that none of those who were given a chance on Saturday looked out of place.

Tougher challenges will come for these young men, but this is a great platform on which they can build.

The future certainly seems bright for so many at Franklin's Gardens.

How they rated...

GEORGE FURBANK

With Harry Mallinder out for the season, this young man has a real opportunity to break into the first-team picture, and this try-scoring display won't have done him any harm... 8

OLLIE SLEIGHTHOLME

Such an elusive runner, the youngster was a joy to watch as he buffeted his way past Bristol tackles and also showed he can defend, too... 8

FRASER DINGWALL

One of the most highly-rated players to have emerged from the Academy in recent years, the centre looks to have all the skills he needs to make it... 7

LUTHER BURRELL

The centre's best showing for some time as he showcased a stylish offloading game and carried the fight to Bristol at every opportunity... 8

MATT WORLEY

Didn't always find it easy to get in the game, but there was certainly no shortage of effort from the wing... 6

JAMES GRAYSON - CHRON STAR MAN

A classy showing from the fly-half, whose partnership with Burrell caused Bristol real problems. Scored his first Saints try and his passing was outstanding... 8

ALEX MITCHELL

The scrum-half is making a real bid for a starting spot when Premiership rugby comes back around as he backed up a fine display at the Dragons with another here... 8

FRANCOIS VAN WYK

You wait all this time for your first Saints try, and two come along at once. The prop produced one of his best displays in the black, green and gold... 8

REECE MARSHALL

The hooker was starting for Saints for the first time since suffering a foot injury against Saracens back in April, and he picked up his now standard try... 7

KARL GARSIDE

The Ampthill prop was appearing as a guest player but it might not be long before he is a full-time Saint after this strong showing... 8

ALEX MOON

Plenty of grit and determination from the lock as he did the hard yards in the Saints engine room... 8

DOM BARROW

The lock will surely become a good player for the club as he continues to build fitness following injury... 7

TOM WOOD

Skippered the side and used all his experience to help steer a young team around, getting stuck in and making good decisions... 8

LEWIS LUDLAM

Looks to be getting stronger with every appearance and he had too much for Bristol in the contact area... 8

MITCH EADIE

Enjoyed this appearance against his former club and some quick thinking during the first half led to a try... 7

Replacements (who played more than 20 minutes)

WILL DAVIS (for van Wyk 52)

Had the honour of becoming Saint No.2000 after coming off the bench just before Charlie Davies, and will have savoured the occasion... 6

CHARLIE DAVIES (for Mitchell 52)

This appearance was a welcome sight for Saints as the scrum-half is now back to full fitness following injury, and the summer signing got some key minutes... 6