Howard Packmanâ€™s early brace paved the way to Northampton Saints to power the way to the U18 Premiership Academy title against Exeter Chiefs at Allianz Park.
It marked a pretty succesfull day for the Northern Conference, who won all three games that they were involved in, with Leicester Tigers beating Harlequins convincingly, finishing up as 27-7 victors, and Gloucester staging a stunning second half comeback to beat Bath 34-26 having been down and out at half time.
The opening game of the day was between two Southern Conference sides, Saracens, the hosts, and London Irish. It ended with a thrilling 40-30 win for London Irish that really set the tone for a day of thrilling running rugby.
If there was one man that typified that running rugby though it was Northampton Saintsâ€™ Howard Packman. His two first half tries, allied to a number of breaks, really set the tone for his sideâ€™s victory as he showed exactly why he was represented his country at both U18 and U20 level in the last twelve months,
The ever popular Rory Hutchinson scored a third first half try for Saints, who reached this final thanks to a tense and muddy win over Gloucester in midweek in contrast to the superb conditions today thanks to the 4G at Allianz Park.
Two Harry Mallinder conversion meant that the Northern Champions were 19-0 up as the first half drew to a close, however an outstanding Jack Oulton try on the stroke of half time closed the gap somewhat, and gave Exeter hope of staging a comeback like Gloucester earlier in the day.
That hope turned into expectation as after a fallow period at the start of the second half, when Sam Fellows went driving over from short range to haul his side back into contention, with fly half Joel Matavesi landing a brilliant conversion to narrow things even further.
It was to be short-lived hope though as Northampton Saints U18s reacted brilliantly to the setback to score within seconds of the restart through some outstandingly powerful running from blindside flanker George Cox, who formed a superb back row trio with Lewis Ludlum and Ollie Lyons as well as Will Allman from the bench, as he surged over to increase the Northampton lead.
Exeter Chiefs romped home in the Southern Conference without losing a game, the only side in either table to do so, but unfortunately for them any hopes of maintaining that fine run were soon extinguished as Northampton Saints U18s rounded off their fantastic day with yet another excellent running and flowing score, this time with Packmanâ€™s replacement, George Furbank, finishing things up for the Saints.
You do not go through a league season unbeaten though without having a fair bit of grit about you, and Exeter Chiefs showed that as they continued to press throughout the rest of the game. They soon got their just rewards as with the final play Tommy Southworth powered over to give his side something to smile about. It might not have changed the game, but it proved a point.
For Northampton there were no further points to prove though, they had produced a fantastic performance, full of running and offloading. They will have been pleased to have finally seen a day without rain, it certainly looked that way given their resolute determination to keep the ball alive and in hand at all times.
It was a fitting finale to a superb day of rugby, it had begun as a free flowing try fest, and really remained so throughout the day, the only difference being the amount of pre game tension that built ahead of games as the day went on.
One thing that was clear from every game, a fair few of these names that were involved today will be on your television screens for many years to come, not least Howard Packmanâ€™s.
U18 Premiership Academy Finals Day Results:
Northampton Saints 31-19 Exeter Chiefs
Leicester Tigers 27-7 Harlequins
Bath 26-34 Gloucester
Saracens 30-40 London Irish
15 Howard Packman, Â 14 Tristan Rawcliffe, Â 13 Rory Hutchinson, Â 12 Harry Mallinder, Â 11 Rotimi Segun, Â 10 Harry Sheppard, Â 9 Michael Morris;Â 1 James Fish, Â 2 Owen Griffiths, Â 3 Luc Jeannot, Â 4 Jordan Onojaife, Â 5 Josh Peters, Â 6 George Cox, Â 7 Lewis Ludlam, Â 8 Ollie Lyons.
Replacements: 16 Freddie Davison, Â 17 Harrison Marshall, Â 18 Jake Byrne, Â 19 Karl Wilkins, Â 20 Will Allman, Â 21 George Chatterton, Â 22 Nic Defeo, Â 23 George Furbank.
15 Tom Putt, Â 14 Kai Little, Â 13 Tom Holdsworth, Â 11 Harrison Cully, Â 10 Joel Matavesi, Â 9 Jack Oulton;Â 1 Oli Dawe, Â 2 Jack Innard, Â 3 Ed Holmes, Â 4 Josh Caulfield, Â 5 Billy Keast, Â 6 Matt Bolwell, Â 7 Nat Bayett, Â 8 Todd Lowry.
Replacements: 16 Charlie Gibbings, Â 17 Jack Stanley, Â 18 Tommy Southworth, Â 19 Luke Hattam, Â 20 Toby Papp, Â 21 Jack Maunder, Â 22 Jack Faulkner, Â 23 Sam Fellows.
15 Sam Aspland-Robinson,Â 14 Loewy Simmons,Â 13 Joe Marchant,Â 12 George Taylor,Â 11 Brandon Bellamin,Â 10 George Jones,Â 9 George Jackson; 1Â Mofe Wilkey,Â 2 Seb Adeniran-Olule,Â 3 Josh Ibuanokpe,Â 4 Stan South,Â 5 Kieran Treadwell,Â 6 Archie White,Â 7 Ed Forshaw,Â 8 Henry Cheeseman.
Replacements: 16 George Mount,Â 17 Ben Gasson,Â 18 James Lasis,Â 19 Josh Novell,Â 20 Lars Heidrich,Â 21 Alex Hogg,Â 22 Fergus Wood,Â 23 Niall Saunders.
15 David Williams,Â 14 Paolo Odogwu,Â 13 George Worth,Â 12 Charlie Thacker,Â 11 Rhys Williams,Â 10 John Hargreaves,Â 9 George Prince;Â 1 Owen Hills,Â 2 George Nairn,Â 3 Daniel Hogan,Â 4 Matt Jones,Â 5 Joe Maksymiw,Â 6 Kain Rix,Â 7 Will Owen,Â 8 Charlie Beckett.
Replacements: 16 Fred Tuliagi,Â 17 Aubery Grimes,Â 18 Neale Farthing,Â 19 Alex Galletly,Â 20 Will Evans,Â 21 Josh Bevan-Brown,Â 22 Munraj Atwal,Â 23 George Fossey.
15 Ed Coulson,Â 14 Sam Rees,Â 13 Elliot Herrod-Taylor,Â 12 Kelly Kieren,Â 11 Rich Galloway,Â 10 Rory Jennings,Â 9 Will Homer;Â 1 Jake Guildford,Â 2 Jack Crowther,Â 3 Archie Lynas,Â 4 Finn Connor,Â 5 Josh Rice,Â 6 Dan Frost,Â 7 James Vecchio,Â 8 James Catlin.
Replacements: 16 Callum Carter,Â 17 Benji John,Â 18 Miles Thompson,Â 19 Toby Small,Â 20 Charlie Smith,Â 21 Owen Waters,Â 22 Dom MacKenzie,Â 23 Alec Coombes.
15 Will Hayward,Â 14 Harry Priestner,Â 13 Ollie Thorley,Â 12 Charlie Norman,Â 11 Sam Westcote,Â 10 Lloyd Evans,Â 9 Farrell Gwilliam;Â 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke,Â 2 Cameron Jones,Â 3 Jack Spencer,Â 4 Rory Battle,Â 5 Tom Lushington,Â 6 Harry Wilson,Â 7 Joe Mullis,Â 8 Will Safe.
Replacements: 16 Zak Bevan,Â 17 Alex Chalkin,Â 18 Tyler Jerrum,Â 19 Toben Ronald,Â 20 Gareth Jones,Â 21 Harry Bassett,Â 22 Elliot Creed,Â 23 Clayton Dee.
15 Max Malins,Â 14 Will Edwards,Â 13 Matt Gallagher,Â 12 Max Wilkins, 11 George Perkins,Â 10 Dan Lewis,Â 9 Louis Mulholland;Â 1 Ralph Adams-Hale,Â 2 Michael Bond,Â 3 Billy Walker,Â 4 Henry Wheadon,Â 5 Zak Farrance,Â 6 Alex Munday,Â 7 Harvey Hutchins,Â 8 Alex Brown.
Replacements: 16 Josh Taylor,Â 17 Matt Brooks,Â 18 Levi Douglas,Â 19 Ryan Ward,Â 20 Lenny Bush,Â 21 Tom Guest,Â 22 Alex Patton,Â 23 Fili Savou.
15 Cam Cowell,Â 14 Bradley Greer,Â 13 John Williams,Â 12 Ross Neal,Â 11 Harry Lightfoot,Â 10 Theo Brophy-Clews,Â 9 Connor Murphy;Â 1 Joel Armitage,Â 2 Ollie Adams,Â 3 Tyler White,Â 4 Ollie Curry,Â 5 Theo Vukasinovic,Â 6 Max Berry,Â 7 Greg Brown,Â 8 Isaac Curtis-Harris.
Replacements: 16 Curtis Langdon,Â 17 Max Hayes,Â Â 18 Jerome Trail,Â 19 Charlie Stonehill,Â 20 Luke Frost,Â 21 Callum Watson,Â 22 Reuben Norville,Â 23 Ross Catlin.