Planet Rugby



Mallinder sings Stephenson's praises

24th February 2014 05:41


Tom Stephenson Northampton Saints AVP 2014

Tom Stephenson: Impressed against Falcons

Northampton boss Jim Mallinder believes his side have unearthed a gem in Tom Stephenson after the centre scored his first Premiership try in Sunday's win over Newcastle.

19-year-old Stephenson scored a superb solo effort for Saints while James Wilson also crossed twice as Northampton chalked up a 22-16 victory to stay top of the pile.

Saints led 19-6 at the break but the Falcons enjoyed the better of the second half and earned a losing bonus point through Noah Cato's late try.

All three of Saints' tries came before the interval but in the second half they could not find the fourth for the bonus point but Mallinder was content with an 11th straight victory at Newcastle.

"It's always good to come up here and win," he said.

"I thought we played really well in the first-half. We would have liked to have kicked on but Newcastle upped their game. In the end we've got four points and we're happy with that.

"I thought Stephenson's try was a great try. He showed some good feet on a difficult surface to score that.

"He's getting better and better and we're pleased to have a young academy lad coming through and looking like a Premiership player.

"We've said all along, particularly in this international period, it's never going to be easy. It's all about getting the win and keeping the momentum going."

England full-back Ben Foden had originally been named in the matchday 23 and was set to make his long-awaited comeback from injury, only to be pulled out at the 11th hour.

But Mallinder was quick to allay fears that Foden would be out for much longer.

He added: "Ben Foden was a little bit sore after training all week. He felt soreness in his knee and I think it was the right decision looking at that pitch not to force the issue."

For Newcastle Falcons, it was a second consecutive losing bonus point after Joel Hodgson converted Cato's 77th-minute try and it means they are 12 points above bottom side Worcester Warriors despite a ninth straight Aviva Premiership defeat.

"At half-time you wouldn't have said we were in with a shout of getting a bonus point," said director of rugby Dean Richards.

"To be fair to the boys they've had a chat at half-time and discussed what we needed to do to turn it around. They've challenged themselves and they've gone out there and turned it around.

"We just haven't been playing consistently for 40 or 80 minutes this season, we tend to drift in and out. "But over the last few weeks there's been 40 minutes here, another 40 there and those periods of quality game time are increasing.

"But we've said after the game, if we can put in a performance like we did in the second-half over 80 minutes against Leicester [next week], then we stand a chance of winning. But we just have to go out there and do it."

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