What we learned from Saints' pre-season fixture against Leinster

Saints' pre-season fixture against Leinster at Franklin's Gardens on Thursday night could certainly be placed into the entertaining category.

Friday, 13th September 2019, 4:17 pm
Ryan Olowofela capped an impressive display with a try (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

The two teams slugged it out in a match that was much better than most friendlies you will see.

Because even though new players were continually introduced to the action, the flow of the game never really stopped.

There were some eye-catching tries, particularly from Saints during the second period, and there were impressive fightbacks on either side.

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Saints recovered from 22-7 down at the break to lead 26-22.

But they couldn't hold out as Leinster found a second wind, scoring twice more to win it 34-26 and end their pre-season campaign on a high.

So what did we learn from the Saints display?

The new players have promise

Ben Franks wore the No.1 shirt

There were several new signings on show for Saints, and many of them looked like they had been strutting their stuff at the Gardens for many years. They have clearly been given real belief by the coaching staff, and that showed, especially after the break as Saints pushed a Leinster side containing the likes of Ross Byrne and Dave Kearney all the way.

JJ Tonks loves a hit

No, it wasn't the second coming of Christian Day at the Gardens on Thursday night, it was another man wearing a red scrum cap. And that wasn't the only striking thing about the young back row forward's display. Tonks clearly possesses a huge desire for the game and a couple of jackhammer hits really caught the eye. You certainly wouldn't want to meet him down a dark alley, or any alley for that matter.

Ryan Olowofela is a difficult player to keep grounded

Saints boss Chris Boyd

The young wing, who has joined Saints from the England sevens circuit, spoke earlier this summer about bulking up to compete with the demands of the Premiership, but if his first outing is anything to go by, he won't have much trouble mixing it in the top division. Olowofela bounces off players like a football off a wall and he refuses to be stopped, getting up again and again to cause problems. He was stopped just short of the line by a last-ditch Leinster tackle, but he would not be deterred as he picked himself up, dusted himself off and flew into the line to score a deserved try.

The Franks brothers could be a fearsome combination

With Owen Franks set to arrive at Saints on November 1, Saints will have the Franks siblings in their ranks. Ben Franks was playing predominantly at tighthead last season, but he was wearing the No.1 shirt on Thursday night, which suggests he will switch over to loosehead to compete with the likes of Alex Waller and Francois van Wyk this season. That would open the door to a Franks double in the Saints front row, which will not fill opposition sides with joy.

The appetite for rugby remains

James Mitchell started at scrum-half

There was a sizeable crowd at the Gardens on Thursday night, once again showing that the buzz is back around the Gardens. A year ago, there was excitement about what boss Chris Boyd would bring to the club, but now fans know exactly what he is able to get these players to achieve, and the hunger to watch it all unfold is clearly there.

Saints are going to be tough to stop again

The rugby on show at Franklin's Gardens last season was, at times, nothing short of sensational with the club often providing a nominee or two to the Premiership try of the month competition. And it seems there will be plenty more where that came from if Thursday night is anything to go by as Saints scored some absolute beauties against Leinster. The offloading game was there for all to see - even new hooker Michael van Vuuren delivered a delightful one! - with tidy support lines and some really good synchronisation.

There is still plenty of work to be done

As you would expect with just a few match minutes under the belt, Saints have still got a lot to work on before the Premiership starts at Saracens next month. The lineout was a particular area of weakness early on, but with so many players missing and so many who have not played together before, that was no real surprise. There is plenty to be done in not too much time, but Saints now know what they must work on and they will do just that in the Premiership Rugby Cup in the coming weeks.

The new kit is nice

David Ribbans in the thick of the action

Okay, so it's not the most important subject, but it does matter a lot to supporters who like to show their love for their favourite team. You can never really tell how good a new kit looks until you see the players wearing it on the pitch, and it turns out the designers have done a great job as this season's strip is one to savour. It has a touch of the retro about it, as it is supposed to, and it is all very Saints.

The new stadium announcer has made a good start

Pete Nuttall is the man who has been chosen to take over from the legendary Geoff Allen, and he did well on Thursday night. He was not over-dramatic and he gave fans plenty of information during the match, while not taking away from the action on the pitch. It will take time for supporters to get used to the new voice of the Gardens, but this was a good start.