Saints score 11 as they slay Dragons in pre-season opener

David Ribbans scored for Saints in the second half (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)
David Ribbans scored for Saints in the second half (pictures: Kirsty Edmonds)

Summer signing Mitch Eadie made his mark as Saints slayed the Dragons 71-21 in the pre-season opener at Franklin's Gardens.

No.8 Eadie, who has moved to Northampton from Bristol, came on at half-time and soon registered his first try in the green, black and gold.

Jamal Ford-Robinson, another recruit from Bristol, and fly-half Piers Francis, signed from Super Rugby side the Blues, also got their first game time for Saints.

Francis notched five conversions as Jim Mallinder's men continued to rack up the tries in the second half, having scored four in the first.

Tom Collins and Jamie Gibson were the stand-out players in the first period and both got on the scoresheet, with Tom Stephenson and Mike Haywood also registering.

After the break, during which Saints made 12 changes, Eadie, David Ribbans, Nafi Tuitavake, Harry Mallinder, Lewis Ludlam and Charlie Clare, who scored twice, added gloss to the scoreline.

The Dragons had gone ahead early in the game as centre Adam Warren latched on to a lovely chip ahead and touched down in tidy fashion.

Dorian Jones added the extras, but Saints were soon at the Dragons' door, with Stephenson showcasing some trademark footwork, allied with power, to score.

It was a popular try as Stephenson was making his first 15-a-side appearance at the Gardens since breaking his leg in a pre-season game against Rotherham Titans last August.

And young fly-half James Grayson put the icing on the cake with the successful conversion to level the scores.

It wasn't long before Saints had their second score, through Collins, who, like Stephenson, spent the early part of the summer playing for Randwick Greens in Sydney.

Collins spotted a gap and raced through it to score after fine breakdown work from Michael Paterson, Gibson and Ben Nutley.

Saints now had their tails up and the Dragons were struggling to live with them as another rapid attack was finished off by last season's top scorer, Haywood.

Collins and Gibson had been particularly influential during the formative stages of the match and the pair were again involved as Saints scored their fourth try.

Gibson was the man to finish things off, bundling the ball towards the line and diving on it, with Grayson adding the conversion soon after.

The Dragons responded with a try from fly-half Jones, who raced on to his own kick ahead to score before adding the conversion.

Teimana Harrison was then forced off with a knock and it was to remain 26-14 to the home side at half-time.

Saints changed 12 players at the break with only Collins, Grayson and scrum-half Alex Mitchell, who had been introduced on the half-hour mark, remaining.

And the Dragons took advantage early in the second period as wing Jared Rosser gathered the ball in his own half and sprinted clear to score.

The successful conversion cut the gap to five points, but some power from Christian Day and Eadie helped Saints respond as hooker Clare added the finishing touches.

Grayson again converted to restore his side's 12-point lead and Saints then took the opportunity to bring on Francis for his first appearance in the green, black and gold.

And it wasn't long before Francis was registering his first points, as he added the extras to Eadie's score.

Ribbans, who was lining up in the back row, was the next to get on the scoresheet, with Francis again converting.

Tuitavake and Mallinder, who capitalised on a slick move on the right wing, both scored soon after.

Clare's second of the afternoon, which came from a tried and trusted lineout drive, and an effort from flanker Ludlam finished things off.

Mallinder's men now move on to face Championship side Nottingham at the Gardens on Thursday night before travelling to Stirling to face Glasgow Warriors two days later.

First-half team: Foden; Collins, Stephenson, Hutchinson, Estelles; Grayson, Groom (Mitchell 32); Ford-Robinson, Haywood, Brookes; Paterson, Craig; Gibson, Nutley, Harrison (Ludlam 30).
Second-half team: Collins (Mallinder 55); Elliott, Tuitavake, Burrell, Furbank; Grayson (Francis 55), Mitchell; Waller, Clare, Hill; Day, Dickinson (c); Ribbans, Ludlam, Eadie.
Dragons: Kirchner; Rosser, Warren, Edwards, Goodchild (Nightingale 25); Jones, Leonard; Garrett (Bale 35), Belcher, Harris (c); Williams, Landman; Allen, Rubasniak (Jenkins 60), Blake.

Referee: JP Doyle

Attendance: 5,312

Tom Collins looked lively and grabbed a try for Saints

Tom Collins looked lively and grabbed a try for Saints

James Grayson started at fly-half for Saints

James Grayson started at fly-half for Saints